American Prison Systems: Do They Really Work?

4530 Words Feb 1st, 2018 18 Pages
However, colonial American prisons were not "houses of punishment," as they would later evolve to be (Lynch, n.d). A person who committed a crime was sent to prison only while awaiting trial, and after the trial was complete, the sentence would entail something quick and decisive either death or release. Thus, early American prison systems certainly worked to the extent that they were only designed to temporarily detain suspects and occasionally house convicted criminals for longer periods.
The concept of the prison as a house of punishment and a place where criminals would be segregated from society is one that emerged later. After the American Revolution, the core social and political climate began to change. Americans began to question the extent to which the death penalty was being issued (Lynch, n.d.). Values, social norms, and political philosophies also changed, and so too did the demographics of the nation. The transformations in American society during the early modern and modern eras led to a transformation of the physical form of prisons and also "their function and their place in American consciousness," (Lynch, n.d.).
American prison historians generally describe two movements in early American prison history:…
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