The Perse School

The 42 Lecture Series

The first lecture of the year was given by Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge.

The Perse is extremely lucky that it has the resources and contacts to attract leading experts from many fields to talk to the pupils, staff and parents. The 42 Lecture Series provides a platform for these visiting speakers to meet members of the school and offer an insight into their research or profession.

The first lecture of the year was given by Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge. Her talk, ‘Do prisons do any good?’ took the audience through the history of prisons, mapping the changes in use and purpose they underwent in response to society’s attitude to the penal system.

Pupils, staff and parents alike were amazed to learn that in the 13th Century prisoners were hired out for labour, while in the 15th Century prisoners had to pay for their accommodation and even their own leg irons. After a brief history of prisons in the UK, Professor Gelsthorpe moved on to outline the core aims of our modern penal system.

She explained how prisons serve firstly a moral function, whereby prisoners receive a deserved punishment, secondly as protection, by keeping prisoners excluded from society and finally as a rehabilitative resource to prevent reoffending. Professor Gelsthorpe explained how difficult it is to meet these aims in the case of short term sentences, revealing that 50% of prisoners serving short term sentences reoffend within one year because their time in prison is insufficient to implement the rehabilitative process.

The audience was left questioning the UK’s current prison system and considering alternative punishments for offenders such as restorative justice, where offenders are made to repair the damage they have caused. In light of the riots this summer, this concept was of particular interest.

Professor Gelsthorpe brought her talk to a close with a brief Q&A session. The intelligent and keen questions of the pupils were a testament to the thought provoking nature of the Professor’s words and indicative of the significance of her research.

 
 
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