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Crime and Punishment in Puritan Society
Transcript of Crime and Punishment in Puritan Society
By Kyle Kenobbie, Paige Jones, Makenzy Renz, Sam Erickson
In Puritan society, religion permeated all aspects of life, including crime and punishment.
Jails and workhouses were often used to house criminal offenders, who were then sometimes sentenced to hard labor in supervised work gangs
In some instances, a criminal could be given the benefit of the clergy, doing so, they could confess and renounce their crimes to a member of the clergy, who would then burn them on the thumb as a mark of remembrance, and then give them forgiveness as long as they never again transgressed into their criminal ways
Some crimes resulting in punishments were: drunkenness, flirting, gossiping, blaspheming, and practicing witchcraft , not to mention more serious offenses
Ex - Communication or Banishment
Sodomy, Rape, Buggery, Adultery, and Fornication were all viewed as sexual crimes, and were punished in varying ways, depending on the crime
The established punishment for Fornication, (the most common of these crimes) was a fine, public humiliation, or whipping
Rape, Buggery, and Sodomy could all be met with a capital sentence
Adultery cases often resulted in sever whippings, public shaming, and in some cases the wearing of a symbol to represent the perpetrators crime
In Puritan society, the punishment for witchcraft was death. For someone to be declared a witch, a trial would be help, in which members of the town would decide whether or not the accused person was guilty of performing witchcraft. In almost all cases, the person was found guilty, and sentenced to death. They were often executed by being burned at the stake, or by hanging.
One means of proving the person's guilt or innocence was holding them under water until they could no longer breath. If they drownded, then they were not a witch, and if they didn't, they were definitely a witch, and were subsequently killed.
The punishment of branding had been used extensively in England, and was continued in North America by the Puritans. A person would be branded with a letter representing the name of the crime they had committed.
The stockade was another form of public humiliation used as a punishment for lesser crimes. Criminals would be bound into the stockade by their hands, and in some instances their ear would be nailed to the wall to prevent their head from moving. People would then often throw rotten food and vegetables and them, and sometimes stones. They would be held in the stockade for a certain amount of time, in some cases days, and then released.
Another form of public binding similar to the stockade was the cage.
The death penalty was usually reserved for instances of murder, arson, horse theft, witchcraft, sodomy, buggery, rape and people who continued to commit crimes; but it was in some cases used for adultery and lesser crimes.
Benefit of the Clergy
Someone could be ex-commuicated or banished for a number of reasons, a main one being going against the teachings of te church. A key example of this can be found in Anne Hutchinson, who was ex-communicated for defying the church and attempting to teach women more about the Bible.
The Dunking Chair
The dunking chair was used to punish people who gossiped, as well as any lesser crimes. Whipping was more frequently used as a form of punishment for all offenses.
Banks, Cyndi. Punishment in America (13-21). ABC-CLIO Inc.; Santa Barbara, CA. 2005. Print.