How did Beccaria, Bentham, and John Howard contribute to penal reform?
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These philosophers made different contributions, but all aimed at establishing a prison system that was more humane, and that focused on reform as well as punishment. Beccaria's On Crimes and Punishment, published in 1764, argued forcefully against capital punishment and torture, and opposed the "cruel and unusual" treatment often administered to people who had committed even minor crimes. John Howard toured prisons and asylums in England in the late eighteenth century, writing a series of accounts of the horrors he saw there, especially the almost total lack of sanitation and the treatment given to women and people who were clearly mentally ill. Bentham proposed a prison system that focused on reforming the morals of prisoners. His famed "panopticon," a plan of architecture that would place all prisoners within sight of a centrally-located surveillance tower, was intended to assist in this process.
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