The History of Prison Reform

1631 Words Jan 29th, 2018 6 Pages
Prisons have progressed from simple places for incarceration where the primary purpose is to protect the public to instruments of punishment where the loss of freedom is penalty for breaking the law, to institutions for reform dedicated to mould the guilty to conform to society's norms. Prisons were among the first public buildings erected in the New World. The city of Boston felt the need of a "house of detention" when the town consisted of a mere forty homes. Early American prisons were not conceived as houses of punishment. In English and American law, political prisoners and high-ranking prisoners of war were occasionally incarcerated, but few common criminals could expect such treatment. Almost the only time commoners were locked away was while awaiting trial, once a verdict was delivered, they were punished on the spot or released (Lynch, 2011). The eighteenth century transformed not only the physical form of prisons but their function and their place in American consciousness.
Discussion
Initially imprisonment was a means of detaining debtors to ensure payment, the accused before trial, or the guilty before punishment. Courts imposed sentences including fines, personal mutilation such as flogging or branding, or death (Johnson, 2011).
The only offense for which long-term imprisonment was common was debt, though…