I'm struck by how reasonable the sentences seem to be when compared with modern US sentences.
XMLicious: it actually says 'petty theft and murder' in that link, which isn't quite the same thing.
Once in prison various forms of punishment were available to keep the prisoners occupied.
Many children were made to 'pick oakum' for up to five hours a day. This meant 'the pulling to pieces of old tarry ropes' (4) which were then used to make new ropes or to cover the planks of wooden ships to make them water tight. This made their hands very sore.
The Treadmill was 'a big iron frame of steps around a revolving cylinder'. In the early part of the century prisoners were put on the treadmill for up to six hours a day. It had no useful purpose. It was just monotonous hard work.
In 1843 the Prison Inspectors' General Survey stated that the treadmill was 'an improper punishment for females and boys under 14 years of age'.(5)
Until 1865 other forms of hard labour included the crank 'which was a wheel with a counting device fitted into a box of gravel'. (6)
The prisoner turned the handle for a given number of rotations and this moved the gravel around in the box . This was another useless activity.
In Leicester prison a certain number of cranks had to be turned before any food or drink was made available. In Birmingham if the prisoner had not completed the required number he was kept in the crank cell until late in the night. This meant he would miss supper and have no food until the next morning.
Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a low-browed, beetling shop, below a pent-house roof, where iron, old rags, bottles, bones, and greasy offal, were bought. Upon the floor within, were piled up heaps of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges, files, scales, weights, and refuse iron of all kinds. Secrets that few would like to scrutinise were bred and hidden in mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted fat, and sepulchres of bones.
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