Essay on Prison Architecture

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Shawn Connell
Professor Blomquist
Writing 101-15
Prison Architecture

Wallace Stegner once said, “Nothing in our history has bound us to a plot of ground [since] feudalism once bound Europeans” (Stegner 301). The only exception is being imprisoned. For those who brake society’s set laws, “Prisons and their many variants are built environments whose intended purpose is punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation and incapacitation” (Awofeso). Prisons began to be more widely used because the early Catholic Church disapproved of physical punishments. In 1298, Pope Boniface VIII authorized that incarceration and lack of liberty will take the place of the “eye for an eye” way of settling disputes previously employed (Awofeso). Today, …show more content…

Their hope was to have the prisoners repent their crimes and embrace a new life of innocence. Haviland factored in a religious element into almost every detail of the structure. The façade is fitted with lancet windows and stained glass. The entrances to the cells are small and short, forcing the new inmate to bow his or her head to enter. Inside the cells themselves, the sole form of light is a skylight representing the light of God or the all seeing eye of God. This system attempts to spiritually cleanse the new comer or in other words, the approach to the prison is a realization of one’s sins, the entrance into the cell is an act of submission, and the time spent in the cell is the beginning of a new life of holiness.
The prisoners of Eastern State Penitentiary were not permitted to have contact with anyone, not even the guards. The inmates were meant to not even know where they were and were often masked when entering the building and their dwelling. Wendell Berry once stated “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are” (Stegner 299). This was meant to allow the prisoners to have a fresh start and a new beginning; to become a new and improved human being. Haviland wished to truly improve the lives of the individual prisoners and society at large in a way he thought was philanthropic.
Although Haviland’s intentions seemed benign, studies show that

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