• Robert Spicer

Prisons: words of wisdom from Prince Peter Kropotkin

Kropotkin was a Russian geographer and revolutionary. His work included the following comments:

• Prisons do not moralise their inmates; they do not deter them from crime.

• Our penal institutions have been nothing but a compromise between the old ideas of revenge, of punishment of the “bad will” and “sin”, and the modern ideas of “deterring from crime”, both softened to a very slight extent by some notions of philanthropy.

• Most people who are kept now in jails, or put to death, are merely people in need of the most careful fraternal treatment.

• The higher instincts of human nature have been checked in their growth by the abominable conditions under which thousands and thousands of children grow up, and millions of adults are living, in what we call our centres of civilisation.

• If we analyse ourselves, we should see that all of us have had some feelings and thoughts such as constitute the motive of all acts considered as criminal. We have repudiated them at once; but if they had had the opportunity of recurring again and again; if they were nurtured by circumstances, or by a want of exercise of the best passions – love, compassion and all those which result from living in the joys and sufferings of those who surround us; then these passing influences, so brief that we hardly noticed them, would have degenerated into some morbid element in our character.

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