This system, so far as the purpose was not effected by various conditions as to the duration of punishment, which left room for conditional sentences, as to the interval for taking cognisance of relapse, and other details, was proposed in France (1884) by Senator Berenger; but Belgium was the first country to adopt it in the law of 1888 ``on conditional release and conditional sentences;'' and France followed in 1891, with the law ``on the modification and increase of punishments.''
Before that time, at the Prison Congresses of London (1872) and Rome (1885), there had been some discussion, without resolutions, on the advisability of substituting for punishment with hard labour either simple detention without labour or compulsory labour without imprisonment, or removal from the place where the offence was committed, or judicial admonition.
But the most noteworthy advocacy of conditional sentences, after the action taken by the Howard Association in 1881, came from the International Union of Penal Legislation, which at its Conference at Berne in 1889 adopted a resolution in its favour, whilst insisting, at the suggestion of M. Garofalo, ``on the necessity of deciding its limitation according to local conditions, and to the public opinion and moral characteristics of various nations.''
The Prison Congress of St. Petersburg discussed the substitution of judicial admonition or conditional sentences for short terms of imprisonment; but no resolution could be arrived at on this occasion, and the matter was postponed to the next international Prison Congress (Paris, 1895).
In Austria and Germany, again, several Bills have been introduced, dealing with conditional sentences.
There are statistics for Belgium on the operation of this system. The law of 1888 requires the keeper of the seals to report annually to Parliament; and that authority drew up two reports, dated May 14, 1890, and July 7, 1891.
From the day when the law came into operation up to December 31, 1889, out of 61,787 sentences in the Correctional Tribunals, 8,696 were conditional; and there were 192 relapses. Out of 222,492 sentences in the Police Courts, 4,499 were conditional, and there were 45 relapses.
These 13,195 conditional sentences included 8,485 for crimes and offences under the penal code; 2,286 for breaches of police regulations; 447 for breaches of communal and provincial regulations; and 1,977 for contraventions of special laws.