Penitentiary Ideal and Models of American History

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2012
Penitentiary Ideal and Models of American Prison
Thomas King
Emmalee J Mead

Looking back at history, there have been countless ideals to reform and rehabilitate convicted criminals to attempt to make them “normal” enough to rejoin society. I think it is important to look and all of the past options and modes of reform and rehabilitation and compare them to how criminals are treated in prisons in today’s society. This paper will discuss the ideals behind penitentiaries, as well as the goals and benefits to them and other American prisons from the 1800’s. The idea behind penitentiaries was to incarcerate and reform individuals that committed a crime and were sentenced. The goal of the penitentiary ideal was for those who are/were incarcerated to be able to be free to rehabilitate mentally and emotionally where as with prisons they are more strict and disciplined. When referring to penitentiaries, chapter two states “Its purposes were both secular and spiritual. It was supposed to be a place of humane punishment as opposed to the physical punishments still prevalent in Western societies…. It was supposed to be clean and healthy in contrast to the jail and to avoid the kind of contamination both of body and of spirit that took place in the existing lockups. This meant that criminals in custody ought to be separated from each other as much as possible, preferably in isolation.”(Foster, 2006)

In the 1800’s there were two types of American prison models, the Pennsylvania and the Auburn systems. “The purists agreed that the Pennsylvania model was closer to ideal. The environment was more penance inducing. The prison was orderly, quiet, and controlled. The prisoners were managed individually rather than in the congregate.” (Foster, 2006) It is my opinion that the Pennsylvania model was more of a spiritual model whereas the Auburn system, described as, “cheaper to build and operate, requiring fewer guards to service and control the prisoners, and used the...
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