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date: 27 May 2024


  1. All punishment is mischief: all punishment in itself is evil.
    Jeremy Bentham 1748–1832 English philosopher: Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) ch. 13, para. 2
  2. He that spareth his rod hateth his son.
    The Bible (Authorized Version, 1611): Proverbs ch. 13, v. 24
  3. Hanging is too good for him, said Mr Cruelty.
    John Bunyan 1628–88 English writer and Nonconformist preacher: The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) pt. 1
  4. Cameron's empty idea seems to be ‘let's hug a hoodie’, whatever they have done.
    Vernon Coaker 1953–  British Labour politician: commenting on the text of a forthcoming speech by David Cameron: see Cameron; in Observer 9 July 2006
  5. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.
    Constitution of the United States 1787 the first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights: Eighth Amendment (1791)
  6. Better build schoolrooms for ‘the boy’,
    Than cells and gibbets for ‘the man’.
    Eliza Cook 1818–89 English poet: ‘A Song for the Ragged Schools’ (1853)
  7. To crush, to annihilate a man utterly, to inflict on him the most terrible punishment so that the most ferocious murderer would shudder at it beforehand, one need only give him work of an absolutely, completely useless and irrational character.
    Fedor Dostoevsky 1821–81 Russian novelist: House of the Dead (1862) pt. 1, ch. 1
  8. Punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal.
    Elizabeth Fry 1780–1845 English Quaker prison reformer: note found among her papers; Rachel E. Cresswell and Katharine Fry Memoir of the Life of Elizabeth Fry (1848)
  9. Whenever the offence inspires less horror than the punishment, the rigour of penal law is obliged to give way to the common feelings of mankind.
    Edward Gibbon 1737–94 English historian: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88) ch. 14
  10. As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
    I've got a little list—I've got a little list
    Of society offenders who might well be under ground
    And who never would be missed—who never would be missed!
    W. S. Gilbert 1836–1911 English writer of comic and satirical verse: The Mikado (1885) act 1
  11. My object all sublime
    I shall achieve in time—
    To let the punishment fit the crime—
    The punishment fit the crime.
    W. S. Gilbert 1836–1911 English writer of comic and satirical verse: The Mikado (1885) act 2
  12. Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen.
    George Savile, Lord Halifax (‘the Trimmer’) 1633–95 English politician and essayist: Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750) ‘Of Punishment’
  13. This is the first of punishments, that no guilty man is acquitted if judged by himself.
    Juvenal c.ad 60–c.140 Roman satirist: Satires no.13, l. 2
  14. Society needs to condemn a little more and understand a little less.
    John Major 1943–  British Conservative statesman; Prime Minister, 1990–7: interview with Mail on Sunday 21 February 1993
  15. For de little stealin' dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de big stealin' dey makes you Emperor and puts you in de Hall o' Fame when you croaks.
    Eugene O'Neill 1888–1953 American dramatist: The Emperor Jones (1921)
  16. Lay then the axe to the root, and teach governments humanity. It is their sanguinary punishments which corrupt mankind.
    Thomas Paine 1737–1809 English political theorist: The Rights of Man (1791)
  17. I'm all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults.
    Gore Vidal 1925–2012 American novelist and critic: in Sunday Times Magazine 16 September 1973