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The return of the wheelbarrow men; or, the arrival of postmodern penality?

Pratt, John
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) British Journal of Criminology 40: 127-145.

In this paper, John Pratt provides a detailed analysis of the range of new penal trends. In doing so, he attempts to assess their significance in the context of the growing debate on modernist and postmodernist penality. Pratt contends that the new penal trends can be seen as early indicators of an emerging postmodern penality. This to Pratt is more than a argument about semantics. It points to important differences in the very foundations of approaches to punishment – for example, values, goals, and methods with respect to punishment. In arguing his case, Pratt starts with the image of the “wheelbarrow men.â€? This was a popular designation in late eighteenth century Pennsylvania for criminals sentenced to public labor and its attendant humiliations. Beginning with this example, Pratt examines pre-modern penal values, modern penal values, and the emerging shape of postmodern penal values.


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