Thursday, July 18, 2019

Prison Reform in Russia and Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The novel Crime and Punishment occurs in the summer of 1865; a time when radical legal and social changes swept through Russia. The reforms of 1860’s and 1870’s were known as the Great Reforms because they affected every aspect of Russian life. With â€Å"an 1861 decree emancipating the serfs and [a] monumental reform of the court system in 1864,† the Russian society was still transitioning from an Estate-of-the-realm style toward a more just system focused on equality (Burnham 1227). The reformed penal system is not just under the modern sense of justice, yet it provided a far greater level of equality than the previous model, dominated by aristocrats and government officials. Lagging behind a few years, Russia was following the trend of the other European countries by remodeling the penal and criminal justice system (Timasheff 16-18). According to The Politics of Punishment: Prison Reform in Russia, Robbins Jr. asserts, â€Å"the Great Reforms of the 1860s set in motion a process that dramatically altered the Russian penal system† (1282). France and England already had reformed and well-established courts; thus, the Russians felt an urge to follow them (Historically speaking, from the days of the Enlightenment, Russia wanted to be considered a prosperous country like the great European nations, but its tyrannical government and social policies prevented it from doing so. Russia, the little stepbrother of the European states, looked from a distance at the splendor of the flourishing states to the west. Russia’s Czars, Peter and Catherine the great, attempted to model the country like a western state while retaining a unique Russian identity, and the nineteenth century illustrates this transition). Filled with a sense of p... ...tally (Dostoevsky 350-355). Dostoevsky is cynical of the criminal justice system because not only does it cheat society, but also it cheats its own rules. This almighty governmental power is reminiscent the previous unjust systems. Talking about the dying horse in Raskolnikov’s dream, the people insist â€Å"she’s damn well going to gallop,† but Dostoevsky urges them not to beat the dead horse (57). A complete teardown and rebuilt seems like the only real solution to fixing the disorganized justice and penal system of Russia. Dostoevsky uses Crime and Punishment to analyze and critique the transitioning legal and justice system of 1860’s Russia. He argues that the true purpose of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate and restore an individual; society needs the institution since not everyone is as thoughtful and ultimately good-hearted as Raskolnikov.

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