Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pennsylvania's Liberalization of Capital Crimes

One of the great achievements of Cesare Beccaria's On Crimes and Punishments (1764) was to encourage the gradual reduction in the number of capital crimes in the Western world.  This 1786 Pennsylvania statute is one of those examples, reducing the penalty for "robbery, burglary, sodomy or buggary" to confiscation of all property and ten years in prison at page 280.  At page 285, offenders are prohibited from having arms in prison.  At page 288 are provisions for granting a full pardon to prisoners who have demonstrated "a sincere reformation."  This pardon was an attempt to return them to civilized society without the serious handicaps that convicted felons routinely suffer today.

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