Shunda R. Anderson
"Compare and contrast the Pennsylvania and New York Penitentiary theories of the 1800's."
The Pennsylvania System, after the failure of Walnut Street, Pennsylvania constructed two new prisons: the Western Penitentiary near Pittsburgh (opened in 1826) and the Eastern Penitentiary in Cherry Hill, near Philadelphia (1829). The Pennsylvania system took the concept of silence as a virtue to new extremes. Based on the idea of separate confinement, these penitentiaries were constructed with back-to-back cells facing both outward and inward. To spare each inmate from the corrupting influence of others, prisoners worked, slept, and ate alone in their cells. Their only contact with other human beings came in the form of religious instruction from a visiting clergyman or prison official.
The New York System, if Pennsylvania’s prisons were designed to transform wrongdoers into honest citizens, those in New York focused on obedience. When New York’s New Gate Prison (built in 1791) became overcrowded, the state authorized construction of Auburn Prison, which opened in 1816. Auburn initially operated under many of the same assumptions that guided the penitentiary at Walnut Street. Solitary confinement, seemed to lead to an inordinate amount of sickness, insanity, and suicide among inmates, and it was abandoned in 1822. Nine years later, Elam Lynds became warden at Auburn and instilled the congregate system, also known as the Auburn system. Like Pennsylvania’s separate confinement system, the congregate system was based on silence and labor. At Auburn, inmates worked and ate together, with silence enforced by prison guards. The Auburn system proved more popular, and majority of the new prisons built during the first half of the nineteenth century followed New York’s lead, though mainly for economic reasons rather than philosophical ones. New York’s penitentiaries were cheaper to build because they did not require so much...
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