The 19th century proved to be an important moment for a discursive capture through which—as Foucault (1995) has famously described—diverse disciplinary powers expanded omnisciently to form modern, “carceral” societies. Included here was a regulatory focus on crime, capturing (identifying) criminals, and correcting them. The following paper examines specifically how Patrick Colquhoun approached such regulation by emphasizing “immoral habits” as a cause of crime that could be regulated, in concert, by civil society and criminal law. He called for the development of effective discipline-based policing to capture and control criminals in civil society, and to enable their subsequent arrogation by criminal law. Alongside Bentham’s panoptic surveillance, Colquhoun’s views on criminal habits called for expanding disciplined criminalization that tied social and legal governance. Two aspects of Colquhoun’s influential ideas are highlighted; namely, the social formation of immoral habits as the cause of crime, and the need for “energetic” systems of policing to embrace habits of criminalization. Together, these approaches to habit fostered massive, costly, and unequal criminal justice institutions that today form tenacious, marginalizing, and unequal relations of captivity. The scope of such enduring captivities might be curtailed by recalling their contingent emergence through historically distant trends, and by questioning their costly collective effects.

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