Historical Prison Eras

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Throughout the years the way prisons are run has changed. Changes include social roles, informal behavior norms, and social solidarity. Prison history has three major eras the Big House, the correctional institution, and the contemporary prison. In The Big House era criminals were known as “convicts” and the guards where known as “hacks” and they were both supposed to keep distance from each other. To make their time easier in the Big House, convicts developed their own social roles, informal codes of behaviors, and language. Inmates created the social role of the “real man” in which they were loyal and generous and tried to minimize friction among inmates. Inmates had a code and believes that was based on the following (1) Don’t interfere with inmate interest, (2) Never rat on con, (3) Do your own time, (4) Don’t exploit fellow inmates, (5) Be tough: be a man; never back down from a fight, and (6) Don’t trust the “hacks” or the things they stand for ( Bartollas, 2002). This code promoted order, inmates understood that any disorder between prisoners and staff would be set aside and prisoners would be punish by losing privileges it had taken them years to attain. The main theme of the Big House was and boredom bored by endlessly recurrent routine, activities served no purpose other than to maintain order. The Big House could be described as a world populated by people seemingly more dead than alive. Correctional institutions emerged gradually from the Big House. In this new era harsh discipline and repression by officials became less-oppressive features of prison life. Correctional institutions did not abolish the pains of imprisonment; one might classify most of these prisons as Big Houses “gone soft” (Seiter, 2011). These institutions offered more recreational privileges such as more-liberal mail, different visitation policies, and more amenities including educational, vocational, and therapeutic programs. Something that promoted peace and more stability was...
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