CHAPTER 2
A Brief History of Punishments and Corrections
Learning Objectives
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To orient you as to the role of corrections in human history
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To provide you with an understanding of how civilized nations refined their penal sanctions,
leading to the creation of prisons and penitentiaries
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To acquaint you with the various nineteenth century reform movements
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To reveal to you the importance of understanding the significance of the movement away from
the rehabilitative ideal to the justice model for correctional practice
Chapter Outline
I.
Early History
A. Crime and Punishment in a Prehistoric Context
1. Before formal legal systems, the resolution of crime and punishment relied on rituals
of reconciliation and exclusion
2. Worst punishment—banishment or exclusion
3. Blood revenge was reserved for intergroup offenses
B. Babylonian and Judaic Views on Punishment
1. Code of Hammurabi—Babylonian responses to crime and punishment created by
King Hammurabi (1792–1750 BCE).
2. Lex talionis—the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
3. Punishment inflicted in the name of the state not the victim’s relatives
4. Law of Moses—included lex talionis
C. Greek and Roman Laws
1. Draco, a seventh century BCE Athenian politician and chief magistrate who altered
disputes from private matters to matters of the government
2. Twelve Tables—Romans first major civil and criminal code
3. By late third century BCE two legal systems existed in Rome
a. Jus civile—dealt exclusively with relationships between Romans
b. Jus gentium—laws for foreigners and Romans retained more rights than
noncitizens
1. Jus honorarioum—enacted after 100 BCE, allowed decisions of magistrates to
supplement and correct existing law (case law)
2. Justinian I (Emperor in 527) had the Roman laws recodified
a. Corpus Juris Civilis—punishments of old Rome
b. Justinian Code—remained in force until Constantinople and the Eastern
Roman Empire in 1453
c. Basis of modern Germanic law and of canon law
D. The Laws of Post-Roman Europe
1. Lex salica—legal customs of the ancient Germanic tribes
2. Botes—schedule of monetary compensations for wrongdoings
3. Wergild—the value placed on a murder victim; it varied by the victim’s status in
society
4.
II.
III.
Wites—a system of punishments used during feudalism in ninth century Britain;
these allowed the local lord or king to collect and keep the botes
5. King’s peace—crimes committed in the king’s presence or against one of his officers
E. Crimes and Punishments in the Middle Ages
1. Ancient Greeks and Romans rarely used imprisonment as punishment
2. During the Middle Ages, corporal and capital punishments were reserved for those
who threated the king’s peace and for religious offenders.
3. King Henry II of England (1133–1189) ordered sheriffs to build a prison in the
country or shire
F. European Punishments at the End of the Middle Ages
1. At the close of the fifteenth century, nearly all felonies (200 plus crimes) were
punishable by death
2. Common offenders received corporal punishment
a. Stocks—timbers with holes cut for feet and hands
b. Pillory—wood timbers set on a post, with restraining holes for head and
hands; designed to shame the offender
c. Public whipping—the oldest and most widely used form of corporal
punishment
d. Pressing—used to convince suspects to confess; person was placed on a hard
surface and weights were added at intervals until the person agreed or died
e. Houses of Correction and workhouses—vagrants, idlers, debtors and
common prostitutes were removed from society and confined for short
periods of time
f. Transportation—began in sixteenth century and was a highly structured form
of exile or banishment
The Age of Enlightenment, the State, and Criminal Sanctions
A. Natural law—a system of rules and principles growing out of, and conforming to, human
nature that can be discovered through reason, without knowledge of or reference to society’s
artificial laws
B. Age of Enlightenment—era formed by a group of philosophers: rationalist, humanitarian, and
scientific movement
C. Montesquieu (1689–1755)
1. Revolutionary, high born, and well-educated nobleman, jurist and political
2. Wrote The Spirit of Law (1748)—compared republican, despotic and monarchical
governments
3. Argued passionately about proportionality in punishment
D. Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794)
1. Wrote On Crimes and Punishments (1764), which influenced generations of legal
and penal reformers
2. Believed punishment can deter crime, if it is certain, swift, and severe
3. Recommend segregation of inmates by age, gender and offense
Prison Reform and Penitentiaries
A. John Howard (1726–1790)
1. a squire; sheriff of Bedfordshire
2. appalled at jail conditions
3. lobbied House of Commons for change
B. Penitentiary Act of 1779
1. Created a new class of institution
2. Largely incorporated Howard’s concerns about humane treatment, productive labor,
and sanitary living conditions
C. Benjamin Rush (1745–1813)
IV.
V.
1. Highly regarded physical
2. Signer of the Declaration of Independence
3. Voiced two concerns:
a. Punishment should not be public
b. Offenders reformation could be achieved through punishment that
encouraged penance
The Pennsylvania System versus the Auburn System
A. Eastern Penitentiary and the Pennsylvania System
1. State-run penitentiaries
2. Western State Penitentiary—opened in 1826 in Pittsburgh
3. The Eastern and Western State Penitentiary are the Pennsylvania system—an
imprisonment method in which offenders were kept in solitary confinement
B. The Auburn System
1. Competed and replaced the Pennsylvania System
2. 1816—State Legislature authorized construction of a new prison in the town of
Auburn
3. Regimentation was central to maintain discipline
4. Silent system—inmates marched, worked, and ate in complete silence
5. Lockstep shuffle—enforced
6. Black-and-white striped uniform and cap
7. Hard work, social isolation, the silent system, and corporal punishment
Penitentiary Reform in the Nineteenth Century
A. Alternatives to Prison
1. Captain Alexander Maconochie (1787–1860) supervised Van Diemen’s Land in
Australia
2. Penal colonies—isolated areas used for the confinement of convicted offenders
3. Maconochie worked on humanizing the penal colony
4. Marks of commendation—a system of rewards
5. Ticket of leave—early release from the colony
6. Parliament passed the Penal Servitude Act of 1853: a key component was parole
7. Parole: the early release of prisoners to the supervision of local law enforcement
8. Irish ticket-of-leave system
a. In the first three months, inmates were placed in solitary confinement and
fed reduced rations; enforced idleness
b. The second stage—up to 12 months – included working with other inmates
c. The third stage: Working in an open prison with few restrictions
d. The fourth stage—given a conditional release from prison
B. Foreign Opponents and Proponents
1. A number of foreign dignitaries visited prisons in the United States in the early
nineteenth century
2. Some gave good remarks while others disapproved
C. The Cincinnati Meeting of the National Prison Association
1. 1870—National Prison Association (later the American Correctional Association)
2. Enoch Wines: The True Penitent
a. Opposed the imposition of severe and regular punishment
b. Advocated rewarding positive steps towards reformation
1. Zebulon Brockway: Master of Elmira
a. Prison Administration and author
b. Implemented three-step program for inmates at Elmira prison
i.
Information gathering and an interview process—known today as
intake
ii.
VI.
Treatment—education, farm work, institutional maintenance, and
work
iii.
Reward system
From Rehabilitative Ideal to Justice Model
A. From Medical Model to Rehabilitation
1. Medical Model—the dominant approach to prisoner management in the early twentieth
century
2. Rehabilitation—the process of returning offenders to orderly or acceptable behaviors
3. Reintegration—a popular concept in the 1970s; provides a bridge between institution and
community
B. “Just Deserts” and the Justice Model of Punishment
1. Justice Model—rests on the assumption that individuals have free will; they choose
to violate laws and so deserve to be punished
2. Just Deserts and the Justice Model are mixtures of liberal thinking on crime and
criminals
a. Concern for due process
b. Monitoring the excesses of an all-powerful criminal justice system
c. Reining in an insulated correction system
C. Implications for Contemporary Corrections
1. Selective incapacitation—the long-term incarceration of career criminals to limit
their ability to commit new crimes
2. Habitual-offender statutes—laws which send repeat offenders to prison for life
Reference
Morris, Norval. 1974. The future of imprisonment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Key Terms
Age of Enlightenment—a rationalist, humanitarian, and scientific movement that had an important impact
on law and punishment.
Auburn System—after the American Revolution, New York State established several prisons to house
convicted felons
Botes—Gothic schedule of monetary compensations for wrongdoings
Canon law—the law that governs churches, especially the Roman Catholic Church
Case law—the method of jus honorarium essentially formed the basis of case law
Code of Hammurabi—the Babylonian response to crime and punishment
Corpus Juris Civilis – the collective title of the body of ancient Roman law as compiled and codified
under the emperor Justinian in the sixth century CE.
Habitual-offender statutes—legislation that sends repeat offenders to prison for life
Intake—the first stage that a new inmate encounters; consisting of information gathering and an interview
process
Irish ticket-of-leave system—a four stage system invoked by Crofton, director of the Irish Prison system
Jus civile—a legal system that dealt exclusively with relationships between Romans during the late third
century BCE.
Jus gentium—legal system that dealt exclusively with foreigners during the late third century BCE.
Jus honorarium—Roman legislators after 100 BCE allowed the decisions of magistrates to supplement
and correct existing law.
Justice model—rests on the assumption that individuals have free will; they choose to violate laws and so
deserve to be punished
Justinian Code – the collective title of the body of ancient Roman law as compiled and codified under the
emperor Justinian in the sixth century CE.
King’s Peace—crimes committed in the king’s presence or against one of his officers
Law of Moses—the Judaic rules of crime and punishment
Lex salica—legal customs of the ancient Germanic tribes
Marks of commendation—a system of rewards given to inmates for good behavior
Medical model—the dominant approach to prisoner management in the early twentieth century
Natural law—a system of rules and principles growing out of, and conforming to, human nature that can
be discovered through reason, without knowledge of or reference to society’s artificial laws.
Parole—the early release of prisoners to the supervision of local law enforcement
Penal Servitude Act of 1853—Passed by Parliament; a key component was parole
Penitentiary Act of 1779—created a new class of institution that largely incorporated humane treatment,
productive labor, and sanitary living conditions
Pennsylvania system—an imprisonment method in which offenders were kept in solitary confinement
Pillory—wood timbers set on a post with restraining holes for the head and hands; designed to shame the
offender
Pressing—gruesome form of corporal punishment; used to convince suspected offenders to confess
Public whipping—oldest and widely used form of corporal punishment
Rehabilitation—the process of returning offenders to orderly or acceptable behaviors
Reintegration—a popular concept in the 1970s; it provided a bridge between institution and community
Stocks—timbers with holes cut for feet and hands used as a way to detain people before trial
Silent system—in the Auburn system, inmates marched, worked, and ate in complete silence
Ticket of leave—early release from the prison colony
Transportation—beginning in the sixteenth century, a highly structured form of exile or banishment as a
method for removing offenders from society
Twelve tables – Laws of ancient Rome composed in part from those of Solon, and other Greek legislators
Wergild—the value placed for the crime committed and the compensation due the victim or their family
Wites—a system of punishments in ninth-century Britain, allowed the local lord or king to collect and
keep the botes
Chapter Summary
The idea that those who break the rules of a community must pay is as old as civilization. In some ways,
the community’s responses have changed dramatically over the millennia; in other ways, we have not
progressed very far in the search for appropriate penalties for lawbreakers. Some of the key points
presented in this chapter include:
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The punishment philosophies that exist in the United States today have been influenced by
practices that date back to the Code of Hammurabi and the Law of Moses.
The Greeks and Romans laid the groundwork for what can be considered contemporary attitudes
and practices toward punishment.
The political and social philosophers from the Age of Enlightenment advocated that punishments
should be swift, certain, and proportionate.
The nation’s focus on punitive measures for criminals regardless of type of crime or history of the
offender has generated new laws and changes in sentencing policies that have resulted in
unprecedented crowding in both jails and prisons.
The Pennsylvania system and the Auburn System competed with one another during the early
1800s for the dominant form of prison operations. In the end, the Auburn System won.
There were a variety of penal reformers in Europe and the United States. Influential Europeans
were John Howard, Alexander Maconochie, Walter Crofton, Gustave de Beaumont, and Alexis
de Tocqueville. In the United States, prison reformers included Benjamin Rush, Enoch Wines,
and Zebulon Brockway.
There has been a movement away from rehabilitation and the medical model of corrections.
Today, much of the correctional focus is on “just deserts,” incapacitation, and a renewed
emphasis on retribution.
Discussion Topics
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Trace the history of punishment and corrections. Which societies have had the greatest impact on
how punishment is imposed today?
What was the Age of Enlightenment? Who were the players and how did they influence criminal
sanctions? Why was this period of time important for punishment of offenders?
Briefly describe the rehabilitative ideal to the justice model of punishment. What is the current
consensus regarding punishment. Does the current model of punishment reflect the views of the
public and/or policy makers?
Web Activities
1) Go to the Center for Constitutional Rights website: www.ccrjustice.org
Download and review the Solitary Confinement Fact Sheet ‘Torture: The Use of Solitary Confinement in
U.S. Prisons’.
Compare and contrast the use of solitary confinement during the Pennsylvania System with the use of
solitary confinement today.
2) Locate the video: National Geographic’s | Inside Maximum Security
Use this video to generate a class discussion, an online discussion board or for a paper.
3) Go to the blog for the Anatomy of a Super Max Prison
Compare and contrast a Super Max Prison with a traditional maximum security prison. What are
the positives and the negatives of these types of prisons?
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CHAPTER 2 A Brief History of Punishments and Corrections