Nineteenth-century institutions lasted a long time in Ireland. Reformatories and industrial schools still operated in the 1970s. Psychiatric hospitals began to experiment with ‘care in the community’ in the 1960s and 1970s, but many of the features of the old lunatic asylum remained until much later. Magdalen asylums lasted until the 1980s. The hated workhouses were more or less abolished after independence, though the more benign county homes which replaced them continued to house some homeless people until long after that. And in Ireland, as elsewhere, the founding principles of the nineteenth-century prison still inform judicial punishment in the early twenty-first century. The workhouse was deliberately designed as a joyless place where the destitute would not linger. Whether an institution ended up as a welcome refuge or as a grim prison depended on the power enjoyed by those running the institution.
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