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Churchill as Home Secretary: Prison Reform

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Accounts of Winston Churchill's conduct of this office in 1910-11 generally underline those incidents of public disorder rioting coal miners in Tonypandy; besieged revolutionaries in Sidney Street. Victor Bailey asserts they reveal Churchill as an illiberal, sabre-rattler, eager for armed conflict between soldiers and workers.

An analysis of Churchill's administrative and legislative efforts in the realm of prison reform uncovers a rather different Home Secretary: one keenly concerned to balance the claim of social defence against crime with that of justice for the individual offender. 'The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals', Churchill advised the House of Commons, in an oft-quoted line, 'is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country.'


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