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Prison Reform In America Essay

1872 words - 7 pages

Prison "Reform" in America

In the essay "Prison "Reform" in America," Roger T. Pray points out the much attention that has been devoted to research to help prevent crimes. Showing criminals the errors of their ways not by brutal punishment, but by locking them up in the attempt to reform them. Robert Pray, who is a prison psychologist, is currently a researcher with the Utah Dept. of Corrections. He has seen what has become of our prison system and easily shows us that there is really no such thing as "Prison Reform"
In Roger Prays essay we see how our prison system has come to where we are at now. He shows how history of prisons worked and how our basis of the prison system came about over the last 200 years.
Robert states that it was the Americans that invented the prison. "The history of prison in America is the history of a troubled search for solutions." Before we had prisons in America, criminals where dealt with in a swift and brutal manner. Many prisoner where dealt with by corporal or capital punishment. Jails did exist in this time but they were "primarily for pretrail detention" stated Pray.
"Today's system, where imprisonment is a common penalty for most crimes, is a historical newcomer." Many crimes during 1718 and 1776 were punishable by death. This was usually done by hanging, sometimes by stoning, breaking on the rack and burning at the stake. Towards the end of the 1700's people realized that cruel punishment did little to reduce crime and their society was changing the population grew and people started to move around more frequently. There had to be a search for new punishments. "New punishments were to rely heavily on new ideas imported from Europe in the writing of such social thinkers of the Enlightenment as the baron de Montesquieu, Voltaire, Thomas Pain and Cesare Beccaria". These thinkers came to believe that criminals could be rehabilitated."
Beccaria, a European theorizer, had the most influence on penology. "His work had a profound effect on criminal punishment the world over." Beccaria wrote "the purpose of punishment is not to torment a sensible being, or to undo a crime [but] is none other than to prevent the criminal from doing further injury to society and to prevent others from committing the like offense." This is how we came to categorizing crimes.
In 1786, the Quakers played an important role in inventing the first prison. They felt that the brutal criminal punishment was irreconcilable with their Christian beliefs. So in 1786, they persuaded the Pennsylvania legislature to limit the death penalty to murder, treason, rape and arson. It was then that all other criminals would have to be imprisoned for up to ten years. As the population grew and more people where getting sent to prison instead of being executed the prison began to get crowded.
The Walnut Street prison, which was the first prison, built in...

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