America’s legal system is a shining beacon of justice in the modern era. This is largely due to its adversarial nature, wherein everybody is guaranteed to have their voice heard and represented fairly. If you are looking for a criminal defense lawyer in Kutztown, give Dutko Law a call for legal representation. Luckily, punishments for crimes today are a lot more reasonable than they used to be. If you are interested, here are some common punishments for crimes throughout history.


You might have heard this term in pirate or naval movies before. The practice’s first use was recorded in the 1500s, where Dutch navy ships would throw a man out to sea tied to a rope, and latch him to the keel of the ship for a long period of time. The victim would have two things to worry about: first, there was the real risk of drowning while being submerged under water, and second, the barnacles attached to the ship would cause severe lacerations and bleeding.

Exile to America

Well, this entry doesn’t seem like it should make the list. America may be a bastion of civilization now, but for a long time it was where England sent its criminals as a form of punishment. It offered people facing capital punishment a chance at survival, even if the death risk of making the voyage was high. However, as we know, many convicted criminals would go on to make a good life for themselves in the new world. After the American Revolution, England began sending its criminals to Australia instead, until the practice was ended in 1868.


A feature in French dungeons, the oubliette was essentially just a hole secluded somewhere in a pitch black cell. A common practice was to lower prisoners into an oubliette, and then to forget about them. A modern day equivalent would be the isolation unit, although prisoners aren’t allowed to starve to death. The word “oubliette” comes from the French word “oublier”, meaning “to forget”.


A common practice in England prior to the 18th century, pressing was a form of punishment used on the accused to refused to make a plea. The practice involved placing a wooden board on a person, then putting heavier and heavier rocks on the board to cause extreme pain. The process continued until either a plea was entered, or the person was crushed beneath the rocks.

Sweat Boxes

A popular practice in the slave holding South, as well as other tropical, warm areas, sweat boxes were a form of punishment meant to inflict extreme discomfort on the victim. Claustrophobia, combined with extreme discomfort from heat and dehydration, would cause the victim to enter a state of panic until they were retrieved from the sweat box.


Also known as a piquet, the picket was a military punishment popular around the 1600s. The practice involved stringing up a soldier or prisoner by one hand, the rope tied firmly around their wrist. At the same time, one foot would be tied to a relatively sharp stake. The soldier could either hold their weight on the stake, or by their wrist. At first, it is easier to hold up by the wrist, as the pointed stake caused pain. Eventually, the wrist gets fatigued, and the victim is forced to rely on their foot.


Most ancient cultures throughout history practiced a form of mutilation as a form of punishment for crime. It was common for a tongue, ear, nose, finger, or even limb to be removed as a mark of criminality, as well as punishment. In Assyria, ears, nose, and lips were commonly removed. In Saxon England, it was usually reserved for crimes like poaching and theft.


A common practice for sailors, grampussing was the act of being made to put ones hands above their head while water was poured down their sleeves. It was generally reserved as a punishment for minor offenses. The salt water would eventually becomes extremely uncomfortable, especially after exposure to the elements. The name comes from the sound sailors would make as sea water was poured on them, which resembled the sea mammal grampus.

Gas Chamber

We all remember gas chambers from the dark blight on Germany’s history, but many people don’t know that the practice of execution using a gas chamber originated in America in 1924. This was with the execution of a prisoner at the time named Gee Jon. The practice most commonly uses a mixture of both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, called hydrogen cyanide, in an air tight chamber to ensure inhalation.


Hopefully these outdated punishments proved interesting. It’s not something you’ll ever have to experience in our country, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have professional legal representation if you are facing a charge. If you are looking for a criminal defense lawyer in Kutztown or the surrounding areas, please do not hesitate to give us a call today.