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Persistent Offenders in the North West of England, 1880-1940: Some Critical Research Questions

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Author(s): David J. Cox, Steve Farrall and Barry Godfrey

Journal: Crimes and Misdemeanours : Deviance and the Law in Historical Perspective
ISSN 1754-0445

Volume: 1;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 69;
Date: 2007;
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Keywords: Persistent Offending | Habitual Criminals | Criminal Class | Employment and Crime | Desistance

ABSTRACT
This article examines the concept of the persistent offender as a group within society, and the presumed impact of that discrete group upon society via a case study of offending in Crewe between 1880 and 1940. The findings of persistent offending in Crewe challenge the assumptions and prejudices of the period, about the links between unemployment and crime and the extent to which crime was an enduring ‘career’. There were no ‘hardened’ persistent offenders in the sample of the type envisaged by contemporary comment, though the role of drink in offending was sustained; and there was no clear ‘type’ of offender either. Examination of the life histories of a selection of offenders is shown to raise a number of interdisciplinary questions, challenging the assumptions of criminologists and legal scholars in relation to the role of legislation in the management of criminality, including the concept (of interest also to historians) that reformation of the criminal was more achievable in the past than it is in the over-regulated present.

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