Penitentiary Ideals and Models of American Prison

Topics: Prison, Eastern State Penitentiary, Convict Pages: 4 (1586 words) Published: December 10, 2011
Penitentiary Ideal and Models of American Prison

Penitentiary Ideal and Models of American Prison

When the word “Penitentiary” comes to the forefront of one’s mind; it is thought of as a place of friendless imprisonment and punishment for crimes committed. There is a completely different perception of what we envision today when we think of what a “penitentiary” is and what it was meant to be. What we envision is not what was intended. In the 1800s, the “penitentiaries’’ ideal was to be both secular and spiritual. Comparatively speaking, the jails of yesterday housed men, women, and children and were unsanitary…the penitentiary was to be the total reverse of the jail. The penitentiary was to be clean and healthy in opposition to the jails, which were dirty and unsanitary. There was to be humane punishment, not inhumane. This would be to avoid contamination of one’s body and character. Even though the convicts might have been separated from each other it was for a purpose…the purpose of practicing therapeutic self-discipline, create habits of industry. There was physical punishment, but only when it was deemed necessary. In other words they would be getting spiritual improvement as well as rehabilitation and expressing remorse for the criminal acts perpetrated and the penalties of those actions, this is exactly what it was meant to do. This was not to be a place where convicts sat around idly, it was to be a place of productive labor. The word penitentiary comes from the word “penitence.” Therefore as a worldly and religious institution, it was to meet the needs for the convicts to express repentance for whatever criminal acts they were responsible for. Its main goal was to attain a spiritual beginning so the convict would go down an entirely different path while expressing regret for their sins. They wanted...
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