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Before the Wars

Churchill as Reformer (1910 – 1911)- With a Foreword by Sir Martin Gilbert


Alan Baxendale

Winston Churchill will be forever known as the great statesman who bravely led Britain through the war years, but what led the young Churchill down this path to greatness? What motivated him to become the future leader?
Delving into documentary records in the Home Office archive, Alan S. Baxendale brings to light the young Churchill’s war at home while Home Secretary from February 1910 to October 1911. Passionate about reforming prison treatment and sentencing, Churchill engaged with his senior Home Office staff and His Majesty’s Prison Commissioners in a daily discussion of the business of criminal justice. With a focus on his working methods and relationships with his staff, Baxendale offers a new look at Churchill as a young and talented politician whose leadership led to innovative reforms that are still influential today.
This book makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the criminal justice system, providing a crucial addition to our understanding of the history of prison reform. It also gives us valuable insight into Churchill as a person, shedding light on his formative years as a minister and providing us with important clues to how he became one of the most successful politicians of modern times.


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Chapter 3: Treatment of the Gladstonian Legacy 41


chapter 3 Treatment of the Gladstonian Legacy ‘Greater elasticity in the local prison system’1 The 1898 Prison Act provided three types of treatment (known as divisions) for convicted offenders detained in local prisons in England and Wales. Its purpose was to give effect to the principle of classification, ‘a commonplace of penology’, as the Prison Commissioners termed it, a process acknowl- edging ‘the nature of the offence and … the antecedents of the offender’. If a court failed to order an offender to be placed in a particular division, or specified that the offence carried ‘hard labour’, the offender was automati- cally located in the third-division, where treatment was rigorous. Prisoners in the second division were treated virtually identically, except that they were considered to be ‘less criminal’, so were deemed in need of protection from further contamination in the interests of their reformation. The courts made little use of second-division sentencing, but the Prison Commissioners were able to counteract this by using what was known as the ‘star’ system of prisoner classification. Thus, they were able administratively to separate the less criminal from the more so. Nevertheless they regarded this practice as being inferior to judicial classification. The first division was restricted to prisoners of conscience, such as those who objected to compulsory education for children on religious grounds, or to compulsory vaccination. Prison treatment in this division was generous by usual custodial standards. Prisoners could have their own food delivered to them, work in their own trades and professions...

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