In theory this system was a great step in advance. It recognised the fundamental principle of sound discipline, for it won the criminal's co-operation in his own reformation, by putting his fate in his own hands, and enabling him, by industry and self-denial, to rise step by step from a bitter thraldom to comfort, character, and freedom. But besides minor faults of detail, there was one fatal ﬂaw in the system. To provide the necessary stimulus, it was right to make the lowest stage of discipline irksome and penal, but at the same time it should have been calculated to soften and humanize. This part of the problem was not yet fully understood. The slavery of Norfolk Island and the lowest probation gangs so exasperated and hardened the convict, as to render him impervious to the good inﬂuences of the higher stages.
But the probation system, though sounder in theory than any yet proposed, proved in practice a terrible failure.
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