Stocks and stares

March 26, 2009

Public attitudes to once-common forms of punishment, such as putting criminals in the stocks, have been assessed in a hands-on study at Bucks New University.

Richard Barter, a 19-year-old police studies student, took on the mantle of a young offender and was put in the stocks in the centre of High Wycombe.

About 200 passers-by were then surveyed to assess their reactions to a punishment that was once an accepted way of dealing with petty criminals in Britain.

Lionel Cox, who leads a course in criminology at the university, said: "Most people now look back on the punishment of former days, public executions and so on, with horror. So what will people think in the future about the way we treat the prison population today? People in prison have often done terrible things, but is this the best punishment for them? That is one of the questions we would like to answer."

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