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Pennsylvania Prison System

Autor:   •  November 27, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,050 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,555 Views

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The Walnut Street Jail is considered the first penitentiary in the United States, if not the first one in the world (Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1949). Although the architectural design was not elaborate, the facility was the first attempt in the United States to provide organized penal regimes such as manual labor. Certain areas of the jail housed specific groups of offenders: Inmates were segregated based on sex, age and offense. General population inmates were housed in congregate cells, while dangerous offenders were housed separately from the general population, as well as from one another, in solitary confinement. These program characteristics and the architectural form used to facilitate and implement them served as a basic model for future prison designs in the United States (Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1949; Johnston, 1973, 1994).

The Pennsylvania Prison System is also known as the "separate" system of prisons, because solitude was the means by which the prisoners would obtain their place as a person able to live once again in civilized society. The founders thought that a person was, in a natural state, good, and that by giving the criminals solitude, they would be able to see the error of their ways and change for the better. The founders of the Pennsylvania Prison System believed that they were doing humanity a great and well needed service, and this belief was the foundation for their system of corrections.

Quakers of Pennsylvania are the individuals who formed the general principles. Prisoners were not to be treated harshly, but they were instructed that hard and selective forms of suffering could change their lives. This principle alone meant that prisoners could suffer everlasting changes. Forms of suffering were total isolation from human companionship, whippings, torture and humiliation.

Solitary confinement was used as a method to prevent further corruption. Many felt that as long as inmates were kept away from other inmates it would prevent any future criminal activity. Inmates would not associate with each other therefore decreasing the chances of being corrupted further. Inmates were blindfolded upon arrival then led to their cells which consisted of a small area where they slept and worked. Inmates were not allowed visits from family; they could only communicate with their family through the prison chaplain.

Offenders were placed in the cells where they should reflect upon their transgressions and what led them to prison. They needed to repent, ask god for forgiveness, and pray that they had been forgiven. Quakers felt that men could only see their own criminality if they were left alone with it, working while living alone, eating alone, and spending all of their time alone. Isolation was the main punishment for inmates, not the confinement itself. It was believed that isolation was the key point in the punishment of offenders.

The institutions were made of stone walls 30 feet


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