A penitentiary is an institution established and controlled by the government. The penitentiary system in the United Stated has as its primary goal of detaining, housing and punishing individuals who have been convicted of felony crimes. Up until the 19th century, prison systems were not common. The common jail dates back to ancient times, but was used to detain persons temporarily until he or she was found innocent, fined, or subjected to corporal punishment. Generally, corporal punishment was most often reserved for the lower classes, since those with means were able to most fines levied against them. Those crimes that were not deemed capital crimes were punishable by means of public whippings, maiming, or being shamed. Historically, there have been two types of prisons or penitentiary systems in the United States. The Pennsylvania and the New York penitentiary systems form the basis are penitentiary systems in the United States. Although the two share some of the same principles, they differ in many respects and it is not surprising that supporters of each type believe strongly that his or her preferred system is the most desirable and best represents that which characterizes the penal system. (Hattery, 2007) The Pennsylvania system was introduced into American society by the Quakers and is far and away the more conservative of the two penitentiary systems. The religious Quakers sought to replace the existing cruel methods of punishment that had been associated with corporal punishment with mandated yet productive labor intensive methods. Prior to the enlightened Quakers entry into the penal system, criminals were abused at the hands of both formal and informal governments. Punishment included branding, mutilation, whipping and other harsh punishments. Under the Pennsylvania system, prisoners are housed in individual cells. Prisoners are required to engage in unpaid laborious service for as long as he or she is housed in the government run institution....
Cited: Haslam, J. (2008). Pits, Pendulums, and Penitentiaries: Reframing the Detained Subject. Texas Studies In Literature and Language, 268-284.
Hattery, E. S. (2007). If We Build it They Will Come: Human Rights Violations and the Prison Industrial Complex 1 . Societies Without Borders 2, 273 –288.
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