Jails and Prisons
June 18, 2013
Jails and Prisons
The earliest days of operating jails, which were more commonly known as “gaols,” consisted solely as detaining offenders who were waiting to be tried. The first was ordered to be built in 1166 by King Henry II. Vagrancy, meaning to have no real permanent home to live and just wandering from location to location was an increasing issue between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. This caused the jails to usually house the homeless, poor and mentally ill (Seiter, 2011). Jails during this time period were extremely filthy, lacked in food and medical care and had a great deal of violence. The conditions were noticed finally in 1773 by John Howard. He was completely shocked by the amount of disease exposure was being spread and the extreme lack of discipline and sanitation. To get a general idea for a proper model of a functioning jail he visited various jails and prisons throughout other European countries. Afterwards, he worked with the English House of Commons to create the Penitentiary Act of 1779 (Seiter, 2011). This act required four key factors. One, that its structure is secure and sanitary. Secondly, it mandated systematic inspections frequently. Third was the abolition of fees charged to inmates and lastly that inmates were to be confined in solitary cells but were to work in common rooms during the daytime regularly. These requirements also eventually created much needed guidelines pertaining diet, uniforms and hygiene for prisoners. Early U.S. colonies’ jails closely shadowed the English model and were also mostly used for those who were only awaiting trial. Although, instead of having individual cells, they kept sometimes as many as thirty people in one larger room. During this time, the punishment for various crimes was to pay a fine. If someone was unable to pay the fine because they were too poor then they would have to be...
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