Federal Prison System

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The Federal
Prison System

Jesse Vohler
12-3 Smith
Essay
24 Oct. 2011
Jesse Vohler
12-3 Smith
24 October 2011
Federal Prison System Essay

The Federal Prison System
Throughout history, the Federal Prison System has changed over the centuries. From hanging to lethal injections, the purpose of the prison system still remains the same. It holds as a chamber for those who have done wrong and break the law. Turning into a home for most inmates, death row would seem like the only way out. As the system keeps changing to this day, people of all ages will still shutter in the sound of the judge replying, “Guilty” and knowing how miserable their next memories will be in that cave they call ‘prison’.

Two centuries ago, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania became the center of prison reform worldwide. The penalty of death was applied for murder, denying ‘the true God’, homosexual acts and kidnapping. Severe physical punishments were used for what were considered lesser crimes. As late as 1780, punishments such as the pillory and hanging were carried out in public. An execution that year included two prisoners who were taken out amidst a crowd of spectators, walking after a cart in which two coffins and a ladder were toted in. Each had a rope about his neck and their arms were tied behind them. They were both hanged in the commons of the city Philadelphia (Johnston).

Because of the rapidly growing population, a new jail was begun in 1773 on Walnut Street. The new prison had the traditional layout of large rooms for the inmates. Prisoners awaiting trial might barter their clothes for liquor or be forcibly stripped upon entering by other inmates seeking funds for the bar. The result was great suffering when the weather turned cold. It was also considered a common practice for certain women to arrange to get arrested to gain access to the male prisoners (Johnston).

The first great advance of the prison system in America was the Pennsylvania or Quaker system of the 1820s. The Pennsylvania system’s Eastern Penitentiary was completed in 1829 to fulfill the Quaker ideal of prisoner isolation. The cells were windowless, measuring about 8 by 12 feet, and the inmate had his own “exercising yard,” surrounded by a 20-foot brick wall. The walls between the cells were thick and virtually soundproof so that an inmate never saw another inmate, only a few guards, chaplains, and an occasional pious person who was permitted entrance to pray and offer spiritual advise. Prisoners never left their cells for more than one hour for exercise. Needless to say, a great number of prisoners went insane under the Pennsylvania system (Sifakis xi).

Hanging was the first form of execution methods and today, is only used in Washington and Delaware since the restoration of the death penalty in 1976. Hanging in older times was always considered a lowly form of punishment, frequently a death reserved for cowards. The Bible, in Deuteronomy 22-23, says,

“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death;
and thou hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain
all night upon the tree; but thou shalt in any wise bury
him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)
that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God
giveth thee for an inheritance” (Sifakis 79).
In time hanging was judged unworthy of important personages; beheading was considered more proper (Sifakis 79).
Shooting was another form of the execution method. Just 20 feet away in a canvas enclosure, five sharpshooters are armed with .30-caliber rifles loaded with a single cartridge. However, one rifle has a blank so that each marksman car later rationalize that he did not do the killing. The shooters place their weapons through slits in the canvas, and all fire in unison when the order is given. Four bullets thump into the heart, making death virtually instantaneous and probably painless (Sifakis 81).

The electric chair was an...
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