Prisons







The PRISONS

According to Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 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 English colonies. The punishment was thought of as the
hard labor to which the prisoners were consigned. It wasn\'t until the 17th
century that the idea that persons convicted of crimes could be punished by
confinement and released after a period of time. During the 17th century,
England and other European countries like Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands
began imprisoning debtors, delinquent juveniles, minor misdemeanant, and
felons. Early jails were mostly dark, overcrowded, and filthy. Prisoners were
herded together indiscriminately, with no separation of men and women, the
young and old, the convicted and unconvicted, or the sane and insane.
In America the concept of imprisonment came because of deep religious beliefs.
The English Quaker William Penn abolished the death penalty for most crimes in
the late 1600\'s and substituted imprisonment. The Pennsylvania legislature
replaced capitalpunishment with incarceration as the primary punishment for
felons in 1789. By the mid-19th century most states had followed suit. Two
models of prisons emerged in the United States. 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
model.
Private business had always been opposed to the industrial Auburn model
prison. They considered the unpaid prison labor unfair competition. Early
trade unions challenged the idea. As the labor influence grew in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries, dramatic changes occurred. By the 1920\'s labor and
humanitarian critics achieved their goal of severely restricting prison labor.
The United States Congress enacted the Hawes-Cooper Act(1929), which deprived
prison-made goods of the protection afforded by the Interstate Commerce Act
and made such goods subject to state punitive laws. During the depression of
the 1930\'s Congress completed the task by prohibiting transport companies from
accepting prison-made products for transportation into any state in violation
of the laws of that state. This legislation, the Ashurst-Sumners Act(1935)
effectively closed the market to goods made by prisoners, and most states then
terminated prison industry.
The American prison began to use the idea of rehabilitation again as the
principal goal of incarceration because thousands of prisoners were left idle.
They began to classify prisoners according to the likelihood of
rehabilitation. A wide variety of institutions, including reformatories, work
camps, and minimum-security prisons were established. The idea of
rehabilitation led to probation and parole. Even a separate system of
procedures and courts for dealing with juvenile offenders was established. By