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History Of The Prison System

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The history of the prison system in the US is very extensive and encompasses nine different eras which include the Penitentiary era, Mass Prison, Reformatory, Industrial, Punitive, Treatment, Community-based, Warehousing, and the Just-desert era. Each era had its own strength and weaknesses that influenced each subsequent era that came after. the idea of a prison system came about from the colonist desire for a more humane method of dealing with criminal offenders. It was a key move away from corporal and capital punishment to confinement and reform.

The Penitentiary era started in 1790 and lasted until 1825. It was the "first period in the United States prison history that witnessed the creation of 30 state prisons modeled after the penitentiary constructed in Auburn, New York"(Ortmeier). In 1790, the Quakers first developed the concept of the prison system where offenders would be reformed through solitary confinement and the study of religious writings. The main point of the Quakers prison was the humane treatment of prisoners. Under this model inmates were confined to separate, individual cells, where all daily activities were conducted. This system became known as the Pennsylvania model. The Pennsylvania system eventually lost out to the Auburn model, mainly due to the belief that the Pennsylvania systems strict silence and solitary confinement measures drove inmates insane. Under this system inmates became cost-effective labor for manufacturers. In the end both
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