See no evil
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Great Britain’s Capital Punishments within Prisons Bill, passed by Parliament in 1868, was a landmark piece of legislation. Compelled by a variety of reasons, from concern for the morality of the public to doubts regarding the deterrent effect of executions, legislators banned the practice of public hangings, moving executions out of the public sight. The right of a government to take the life of one of its citizens as punishment is frequently fodder for heated debate even in modern times. Often mentioned as a crucial step in Britain’s abolition of the death penalty, the Capital Punishments within Prisons Bill has received little academic discussion of its own merits. This paper examines the intellectual and social environment that gave rise to this milestone legislation, the details of its passage, and the implications the law had for future developments of criminal law and executions.