Today, the Tower of London is a tourist site, home only to the crown jewels, but not long ago the imposing structure held traitors, political prisoners, and more, often on their way to the chopping block. Even outside of this famous building, prisons have changed radically since the Norman Conquest in 1066. In the first book on the history of prisons in Britain, former prison governor and professor of criminology David Wilson offers unrivaled insight into the penal system in England, Scotland, and Wales, charting the rise and fall of forms of punishments that take place behind their walls.
Pain and Retribution explores prisons as an institution and examines how they are designed, organized, and managed. Wilson reveals that prisons have to satisfy the demands of three interested parties: the public, from politicians and media commentators to everyday citizens; the prison staff; and the prisoners themselves. He shows how prevailing concerns and issues of the times allow one faction or another to have more power at varying points in history, and he considers how prisons are unable to satisfy all three at the same time--leading to the system being seen as a failure, despite rising numbers of prisoners and growing funds invested in keeping them incarcerated. With intriguing comparisons between the prisons of New York City and Britain and searching questions about the purposes of the current penal system, Pain and Retribution provides unparalleled access to prison landings, staffs, and the people behind the locked doors.