Essay on History of the Prison System

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Prison is an institution for the confinement of persons convicted of criminal offenses. Throughout history, most societies have built places in which to hold persons accused of criminal acts pending some form of trial. The idea of confining persons after a trial as punishment for their crimes is relatively new.

During the 15th century in Europe, the penalties for crimes were some form of
corporal punishment like whippings for less serious crimes and execution or
enslavement for more serious offenses. In early 16th century England, vagrants
and petty offenders were committed to correctional institutions known as
workhouses. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the government transported
convicted felons to the
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The first system began in
Auburn State Prison in New York in 1817. Prisoners worked together in total
silence during the day, but were housed separately at night. Strict discipline
was enforced, and violators were subject to severe reprisals. The second
model, the Pennsylvania system, begun in 1829 in the Eastern State
Penitentiary at Cherry Hill, was based on solitary confinement for convicts by
day and night. There was a lot of debate about the two systems. People who
favored the Pennsylvania model focused on its hope of rehabilitation, the
theory being that a felon alone in a cell with only a Bible to read would
become penitent. This is where the term penitentiary came from. The Auburn
system was criticized as being virtual slavery, because prisoners were often
put to work for private entrepreneurs who had contracted with the state for
their labor. Prisoners of the system were never paid leaving a good profit for
the business owners and the state. People who believed in the Auburn system
said that the idleness of the prisoners in the Cherry Hill penitentiary
sometimes caused madness. The activity of the prisoners and the profits from
their labor meant the state didn't have to finance the prison. Most states
adopted the Auburn approach. European countries adopted the Pennsylvania

Private business had always been opposed to the industrial Auburn model