[Edict issued by the Austrian government in Milan forbidding convicts from obtaining personal charitable donations.]

Milan, 4 September 1771.

Folio (490 x 290 mm); large woodcut arms of Austrian Empire at head, large woodcut initial; a few small tears and some dusting to the edges of the margins, central vertical and horizontal crease from folding; a very good copy.


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[Edict issued by the Austrian government in Milan forbidding convicts from obtaining personal charitable donations.]

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A rare edict legislating in an understudied area of early prison reform, issued in the decades leading up to the great era of reform inspired by American prisons and advocated Europe-wide in the 1790s.

The document implicitly portrays a system undermined by the occasional, arbitrary and discriminatory nature of budgets for the welfare of prisoners, and the determination of officials of the Austrian Empire to introduce regularity and accountability to this area. The edict legislates on charity given to convicts. The details of the edict give an insight into the various ways in which convicts were able to obtain material support, mainly in the form of money, food and clothing, and mainly from relatives or through begging. Rather than benefitting the individual convict, the lawman decrees that voluntary donations should be made out to the prison, pooled, and redistributed according to needs. This pronouncement precedes the radical prison reforms inspired by the Pennsylvania model, described for the French public by de La Rochefoucauld in 1796, and promoted throughout Enlightened Europe thereafter.

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