Prison History

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The first major historical development of the U.S. courts was would be the Penitentiary Era (1790-1825) The Walnut Street Jail was America’s first real prison in Philadelphia. The prison was ran by the Quakers who thought that prison should be a place where offenders should may make amends with society and accept responsibility for their misdeeds. (Schmalleger, 2009) The Quakers elements of philosophy included rehabilitation and deterrence which is still used to this day. Penance was the primary methods of rehabilitation because of this all of the offenders were put into solitary confinement, so they would be left to think of their crimes. The Quakers even had high walls put up to let the offenders go out to get exercise daily, eventually handicrafts were let into the prisons so offenders could work in their cells. In 1826 the Western Penitentiary opened in Pittsburg and the Eastern Penitentiary open in Cherry Hill, Pennsylvania three years later. (Schmalleger, 2009) These prisons were modeled after the Walnut street Jail with solitary confinement, individual cells and high impenetrable walls. This was the beginning of prisons in the U.S.

The next is the Mass Prison Era (1825-1878) Four states built prisons on the Philadelphia model but as the prison population began to grow building solitary confinement was getting to expensive so the so the New York State Prison was built in Auburn and the Auburn system created to save money by letting prisoners congregate but at the same time they must remain silent or suffer corporal punishment. During this time an experiment was done at the Auburn prison involving 83 men. They were sent into solitary confinement on Christmas day of 1821 and were not released until 1823 and 1824. This experiment did not allow for exercise or handicrafts like the Philadelphia prison did. From this experiment five of the 83 died, one went insane, and another attempted suicide and the rest became “seriously demoralized.” (Schmalleger,...
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