Cesare Beccaria and John Howard´s View on Law and Justice in the 18th Century
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In the mid to late 18th century, prisons across Europe were a problem. Moreover, the judicial system was also corrupt. Cesare Beccaria and John Howard though from very different places shed light on the different areas of the laws and practices associated with the legal system. Beccaria focuses more on how and why people were getting to prison and their rights juxtaposed to the judges who he deemed unimpartial. He sees the corruption of criminal investigation and seeks for reform. He does not focus much on what happens once criminals are convicted. Howard focuses attention on what is happening once people got into prison; the way they were being treated. He does not care how they got there but how they are treated when they get there. Beccaria believed in the rights of each person against the nation, while Howard believed that prisoners were being treated evil and attempted to shed light on how they were being mistreated.
Beccaria believed that the basis of law “ought to be, compacts of free men” and but that they were being twisted and used as “a mere tool of the passions of some”. He continued that laws should be “dictated by a dispassionate student of human nature who might, by bringing the actions of a multitude of men into focus, consider them from this single point of view; the greatest happiness shared by the greatest number.”
Some enlightenment ideals he portrays is how he sees power and arrogance crushing justice. He focuses on the idea of “rights” and “Private liberty of each person.” Before the enlightenment you do not hear people talk about the idea of people’s individual rights. “The sway of habit is universal…...so the ideas of morality come to be stamped upon the mind only by long and repeated impressions.” Th...
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...does this when he argues that different levels of offenders should not be housed together. He is against confining all the people to the same jails regardless of their category or offence. His ideas differ from Beccaria in that he wants prisoners to have rights to at least be provided with the necessities of life, while Beccaria wants rights for people before they enter jail. Beccaria actually seems to favor the harsh treatment in prisons because it helps deter people from committing crimes.
Together these documents offer us a window into the period of the late 18th century. The enlightenment was bringing about ideas of change and progress. The focused shifted towards the individuals and their rights. Here, we see Beccaria argue for the rights of individuals in the criminal investigation process, while Howard argues for the rights of those already in prison.