Living in Prison: A History of the Correctional System with An Insider's View

By Stephen Stanko; Wayne Gillespie et al. | Go to book overview

2

JUSTICE AND THE ORIGIN OF CORRECTIONS

Gordon Crews


INTRODUCTION: THE EVOLUTION OF JUSTICE—FROM BANDS AND TRIBES TO STATES

No one knows exactly when criminal law and corrections began in human society. However, it probably would have occurred at the point in social evolution when collective vengeance was first substituted for private vengeance. That is, people realized that feuding was costing the group too much in terms of injuries and lives, and some individual's behavior was first imagined to be harmful to the group as a whole. The entire group, or the leader(s) acting for the group, took action against the offender.

As small primitive bands grew into sizable tribes, there was a need for more organization. With this shift came an increase in the number of tribal rules that individuals could violate. Also, there were more feuds among individuals and families. Social order simply could not be maintained in a large group by relying mainly on private vengeance; it was too costly in injuries and lives of tribal members. Therefore, some tribes set rules for third-party intervention, which established forms of “corrections” that were less injurious than private vengeance (e.g., verbally insulting each other until the feuding parties were satisfied) (Bohannan, 1967). More often, it seems, an order was made for some sort of payment in personal goods by the designated offender to the injured party or his or her relatives, depending on the seriousness of the victim's injuries, or for the victim's death (Hoebel, 1954).

The size of tribes continued to grow, and feuds among members and families also increased. As Mays and Winfree (2002) described the transition from tribal to state justice, the chief and tribal elders or the king and his counselors had to establish consistent procedures for controlling feuds and keeping the peace.

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