history of prisons

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History of American
Prisons
Mrs. Auvil
Social Studies 9
Vocabulary
Penitentiary- from the Latin word
for remorse
Quakers- religious group William
Penn was a part of (nonviolent
group)
Prison- a public building used for
the confinement of people
convicted of serious crimes
400 - 1000 A.D. Punishments
Peasants (poor people)
couldn't pay fines
Led to corporal punishment
Whipping
Branding
Torture
1400’s England
King Henry VIII
started executions,
banishment,
mutilation,
branding, and
flogging for
criminals
Anywhere from
murderers to
robbers
First Prisons
In Europe, prisons were only
used to hold people before they
went to court
Meant for a short
time only
The State of Georgia
Debtors, people who owed
money to the king of England
(King George), were sent to live
in Georgia… our first “prison”
Georgia cont.
Between 1717 and 1775, at least
10,000 convicts were sent to the
Georgian colony
This was not a punishment though
because they made friends with the
Native Americans and had a good life
James City, Virginia
First American jail house in
colonies
1600’s
James City Prison
Criminal paid for his crimes by
giving up his land and belongings
No property?
Go to prison and work there until victim
is paid off.
Original Prisons
1820- Walled institutions
“penitentiaries” replaced physical
punishment
They were:
Overcrowded
Dirty
Inmates attacked each other regularly
Original Prisons, cont
All people together (old, young,
black, white, men, and women)
Sheriff had a bar with very expensive
liquor for them to buy
There were fees to have cells locked,
unlocked, get food, have heat, and
clothes
1776
Prisons who were
waiting for their
trial might have
traded their clothes
for liquor.
When the trial
wasn’t until after
winter they froze to
death!
Prostitution
“Certain” women
purposely got
arrested so they
could have access
to drunk male
prisoners with
money!
Death Penalty for…
Murder
Denying “the true God” (going
against religion of state)
Homosexual acts
Kidnapping
Prison and Fines for…
Cheating on a spouse
Rape
Debtors
Quaker Prisons
Quakers of
Philadelphia came
up with concept of
penitentiary
Purpose was to have
criminals reflect on
their crime and
become truly sorry
Quaker Prisons cont.
Their idea was solitary
confinement
Hoped criminals would reflect and
pray
Called Pennsylvania System
This was the FIRST long-term
prison in the world!
Philadelphia Society for
Alleviating the Miseries of
Public Prisons
1783- Benjamin Franklin (and
some others) started to change
the cruel punishments of criminals
Created the Society in 1787
Now called Pennsylvania
Prison Society
Walnut Street Prison
(First Prison in USA!)
Started in 1790
Pennsylvania
System of prison
design (solitary
confinement)
Become
overcrowded
because of
increased industry
and cities
Walnut Street Jail
Reduced crime rate
131 in 1789 to 45 in 1793
Reduced escapes to ZERO in first 4
years
Walnut Street Prison cont.
Had workshop teaching trades
Large rooms (18 feet square) for
30-40 occupants
Samuel Wood (first warden)
Closed in 1835
Problem with this system:
Solitary confinement caused
Nervous breakdowns
Suicides
They thought silence would cause
the prisons to not pick up each
others bad attitudes
Auburn Prison (in NY)
1821- New system
of prisons:
“Auburn System”
Inmates work 10
hours a day, 6 days
a week
Gives sense of
purpose, discipline,
and order
Auburn System
Three classes of
prisons:
1. Always in solitary
confinement
2. Allowed to work
and have occasional
free time
3. Largest groupworked and ate
together during the
day, separate cells at
night
Auburn System SCARY!
Punishment with whip
to back
Inmates helped build
Sing Sing Prison, NY in
1825 and NO ONE
tried to escape
They slept outside with
no supervision!
Eastern Penitentiary
System
Took down a cherry
orchard to build it, so
located in Cherry Hill,
PA.
Opened in 1829 (not
finished until 1835)
Promoted EXTREME
isolation
Caused suicides
Modern Prison?
Each cell had its own small exercise
yard attached
Central heating (even before the US
Capitol)
Flushing toilet in each cell (before
the White House)
Shower baths
(first in the USA!)
Which is better?
Auburn System proves better than
Pennsylvania System
Civil War Era
1861-1865
Harsh and brutal
Started two other systems:
Contract System- sold inmates work
to local businesses
Convict-Lease System- sold inmates
as slaves to businesses (state gave
up supervision and control)
Elmira Reformatory, NY
1888-1920
Z.R. Brockway (warden) created
“new penology”
Elementary education for illiterates
Library hours
Elmira College faculty teach inmates
Vocational training shops
Mid-1930’s Freedoms
No more red and
white striped
uniforms (wore all
grey instead)
Mingle around yard
for 1-2 hours a day
Got movies and
radio
Visitors and mail
Prisoner Rights
In 1971, the Supreme Court gave
prisoners some rights:
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Religion
Freedom from Restraints and Solitary
Confinement due to beliefs, religion, or
race
Opportunity to wash, have clean
bedding, clothes, heat, cooling, light, and
nutrition
Habeas Corpus
Law that protects people from
being put into prison (or locked
up) for wrong reasons
Security First, Rights
Second
Mail may be searched
Reading material may be denied
Newspapers may be edited
(meaning cut out so only certain
things can be read)
Ankles and wrists may be shackled
when they are moved
“Good Time”
This is credit for time served on
good behavior
Used to reduce sentence length
One day of “good time credit” for every
three days that he/she behaves well
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