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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 4: Humanizing Convict and Local Prison Regimes: Churchill’s Initiatives 65


chapter 4 Humanizing Convict and Local Prison Regimes: Churchill’s Initiatives Aged Convicts While investigating initial separate confinement for convicts, a number of ideas occurred to Churchill for further humanizing their regimes. One of these concerned the treatment of aged convicts. His attention had been drawn to this issue by a newspaper account of a sentence of eight years’ penal servitude for house-breaking imposed on an offender by the name of White, alias Smith. Churchill sent the clipping to Troup, and asked him to provide a ‘special report’ on what exactly lay behind the case.1 The report recorded that White had been born in London in 1837, making him seventy-three years old when convicted. He had a string of previous convictions against his name, his first from 1859. His most recent sentence was his tenth, and his eighth of penal servitude, in a criminal career which included stealing, robbery with violence, and housebreaking. His most recent offence was failing to report to the police when under licensed release from penal servitude, and keeping a brothel. Having learned all this from a Metropolitan Police report, on 22 March 1910 Troup commented: ‘An absolutely worthless specimen of humanity … When he has served three years, the remainder of his time might perhaps be converted to preventive detention – if he is physically fit for the work.’2 The medical officer at Wormwood Scrubs, where White was detained, reported he was suffering from chronic bronchial catarrh, weakness of heart and the general effects of old age. His...

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