American Prison History

Read Complete Research Material

American Prison History

American Prison History


Prison is a place of detention where there are individuals who have broken the rules of society /law. It aims to incarcerate them to reintegrate into society once their punishment ends. Historically, American prisons have utilized diverse types of isolation, quiet, and coercive remedy of prisoners, all of the supposed concern of time, the issue of these prisoners into humanity, both men and women are more adept to reside in harmony with other ones, than it was before prison. The article of Robert et al. (2005) has also talked about the prison history of America in detail in their article The American Prison in Historical Perspective: Race, Gender, and Adjustment.


Historians have argued about the origins of the penitential reform movement. Enlightenment thought, urbanization, the Industrial Revolution, and bourgeois fear of social disorder have all been suggested as causes of this historical development. Historians can all agree that in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, liberal republics shifted their major form of state punishment from public displays such as whippings to the incarceration of criminals in institutions.

Penitentiary movement

Word “penitentiary” brings to one's mind images of friendless punishment and imprisonment for criminals who have committed heinous crimes. Back in the 1800s when penitentiaries ideal was developed, it was meant to be spiritual as well as secular. In an era when penitentiaries ideal came into being, jails used to be unsanitary and used to contribute less towards the inmates as correctional facility (making them responsible citizens by teaching them skills so that they can go out and contribute to the society), and concept of penitentiary was a complete reverse of the concept of jail. The penitentiary was a stepping stone in the evolution of the prison. The penitentiary, however, was the first attempt to use confinement as the punishment itself. The two models behind this system were the ESP (Eastern State Penitentiary) and Auburn System (New York System).

ESP (Eastern State Penitentiary)

ESP was first model of penitentiary. John Haviland designed and opened it back in 1829. ESP is considered world's first penitentiary in the world. ESP encouraged the use of solitary confinement for the rehabilitation of the convicts as it used to give them time to think about themselves and remorse their criminal activities and behavior. Eastern State's solitary confinement system and radical floor-plan became model for 300 plus prisoners worldwide. In colonial America, eastern state penitentiary once views as progressive reform because it eliminated much excessively physical punishment. It was viewed as an evolution of American society's sense of decency. Eastern State Penitentiary not only punished, but moved convicts towards change and spiritual reflection. The system of isolation which was used to isolate a convict from other inmates was Quaker-inspired. Knowledge building, mild interaction with prison guards, to some extent free roaming outside their cells were some of the notable characteristics of this penitentiary which differentiated it from a traditional jail at that time (Roberts, 1996).

Auburn System (New York System)

Auburn system on the other hand opposed ...
Related Ads