Historical Criminology, Convicts and Female Offenders Then and Now

Miss Jessica Smith1, Mr Rob White2
1Tasmania Prison Service, Hobart, Australia, 2University of Tasmania , Hobart, Australia

The importance and continuing relevance of historical analysis to contemporary criminal justice policy and practice is demonstrated in comparisons of female offenders in the mid-1800s and the present day. The paper begins by briefly describing the general contours of historical criminology and the nature of historiography. It then concretely examines two facets of the lives of women who were associated with the criminal justice system in Tasmania, then and now. The first relates to the life experiences prior to and after contact with official coercive institutions, in particular exposure to alcohol, abuse and trauma. The second describes the ways in which female offenders navigated and negotiated the institutions of criminal justice within each time period. Such study reveals differences not only in system procedures and opportunities, but in societal responses upon release – with many female convicts in Tasmania subsequently becoming respectable and respected members of the local community in contrast to their modern counterparts.


Jessica Smith is a graduate from the University of Tasmania. She completed her Honours in Criminology with Professor Rob White having written a thesis through the lens of Historical Criminology. She now works for the Tasmania Prison Service in Planning and Reintegration as a Planning Officer.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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