By Professor Helen Johnston and Dr Jo Turner

The Victorian period has often been depicted as one where people with disabilities were viewed as a burden to their families and their communities, and social policies aimed at helping these individuals were virtually nonexistent.

In fact, a fundamental response to people with either physical or cognitive impairments was to either ignore them or lock them up in asylums or workhouses.

But many people with disabilities were incarcerated in the convict prison system during this period. So what was prison like for these individuals? And how did the authorities respond to and deal with members from these often marginalised groups?

Using case studies of prisoners with physical disabilities, Prof Helen Johnston and Dr Jo Turner try to uncover the hidden experiences of a life of penal servitude, providing a glimpse of what is was like to be both disabled and a convict during the nineteenth century.

The article is published in the Prison Service Journal.


Read the full article

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Based on her excellent PhD @lawhulluni (supervised by @ourcriminalpast), this provides an invaluable long duree analysis of how expert witness testimony was variously shaped, accepted and denigrated in infanticide cases heard in London and Hull between the late 17th & mid-20th C

Early boys from the black stuff, roadmaking in Liverpool 1890.
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(Left) Major John James Grieg, Head Constable of Liverpool from 1852-1881. (Right) Liverpool's Main Bridewell on Cheapside. Major Grieg would visit here on Sunday afternoons to loudly reprimand drunk and disorderly prisoners in the manner of the parade ground. @ourcriminalpast

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