A Pathe newsreel reporting on the Dartmoor Prison Riot of January 1932 referred dramatically to the prison as the ‘toughest’ in the country and as the ‘home of many desperate criminals and men who are serving life sentences’. While the Pathé newsreel on the riot asserted that there were many inmates serving life sentences held in Dartmoor, in fact there was only one. This was the popularly held view of Dartmoor which was one of two prisons, the other being Parkhurst Prison, incarcerating convicts (a classification abolished in 1948) serving penal servitude sentences of a minimum of two years. Convicts were then designated by the courts as those who should be incarcerated for extended periods as a consequence of their criminal depredations. Were these men guilty of serious, violent offences and therefore worthy of being represented in such sensationalist terms? Actually, their criminal histories varied considerably and although many were convicted of serious violent offences, minor and property related offences appeared much more often on their records. Nevertheless, confinement in Dartmoor Prison operated to associate inmates with unforgiving surroundings and perhaps for offences for which forgiveness was more difficult to obtain.
|Prison Service Journal
|Published - 1 Jul 2017