[PW] paying one's debt to societyh

T.F. Mills phasco at earthlink.net
Wed Apr 22 05:52:31 PDT 2015

On 22 Apr 2015 at 3:13, Solomons1pal at aol.com wrote:

>    Who first suggested that someone committing a crime had  thereby 
> incurred a debt to society, a debt hecould pay off by serving a certain  time in 
> prison?

The Code of Ur-Nammu, dating from about 2100 BCE and thus predating the Code of 
Hammurabi by 300 years, is the oldest surviving law code and provides for imprisonment for 
some crimes.  

Urukagina, king of the city state of Lagash in Mesopotamia around the 24th century BCE is 
known to have promulgated a legal code which is the first so far known in recorded history.  
The text has not been found, and is only known from secondary citations.  Unless it was 
unduly harsh, applying the death penalty for just about everything, it probably also provided for 
prison sentences. 

I think the general first attempts at codifying law  were to limit excessive and arbitrary 
penalties, but the first examples of imprisonment must be lost in prehistory, as is the first 
organisation of society.  (See E.O. Wilson's The Social Conquest of Earth.)

T.F. Mills 
(Colorado, USA)

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