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History Of Prisons In The United States

798 words - 4 pages


In the early years going to prison for a crime was not common. When people committed crimes, they were punished by corporal punishment, forced labor, social ostracism, and many far worse punishments. People began using imprisonment as a form of punishment after the American Revolution. In England these practice of imprisonment been taking place since the 1500s in the form of dungeons and other detention facilities. Prisons were one of the first buildings introduced in the New World. In early America prisons were not looked at like prisons are today, most crimes where punished on the spot and the person released. Most of the people that had long term sentences were people that owed debt. Other type of punishments that was used was fines, public shame, physical chastisement, and death. Misdemeanors were punishable by fines, just like some are today. The United States prison building efforts went through three waves. First the Jacksonian Era, which led to the increase use of imprisonment and rehabilitive labor as punishment for their crimes in almost all states by the time of the American Civil War. Second was the Progressive Era, which was after the civil war. The Progressive Era brought in the usage of parole, probation, and indeterminate sentencing. Third was in the early 1970s, by this time the number in prisons had increased five times.
The first prisons in the United States were established as penitentiaries, were offenders paid for their sins. The English Workhouse was one of the United States first penitentiaries. This place was early designed for punishment of the poor. As time passed, the English realized they should imprison criminals of all kind. The workhouse was a place of hard labor. People that supported the workhouse believed in the absence of the criminal from society would make them a productive citizen.
In the 18th century crime stated to increase because of trade, development of early capitalism, and the start of the Industrial Revolution. In England, their legal system was known as “the Blood Code” because of the rise in crime. Capital crimes in England went up from fifty all the way to two-hundred. In these times the sentence didn’t fit the crime. A person could get the death penalty for stealing something. The death penalty was a common use of punishment in the 18th century. Some ways to avoid getting the death...

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