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From the Stocks to the Penitentiary

Image of a prisoner Michel Calabria getting flogged 168 KB

At the end of a trial, the judge hands down a sentence to the accused. Jail? Not in the 17th and 18th centuries. In those days, a jail was simply a house of detention. The accused awaited his or her punishment in an unsanitary dungeon with all sorts of offenders. Back then, a sentence often involved an exemplary, even physical punishment.

At the end of the 18th century, these practices were denounced by reformers. They argued that offenders had to be locked up and isolated to do penance. Criminals could then return to society with a better moral character. This reasoning was at the root of the creation of a genuine Canadian correctional system.

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