RQ: How did societyshape the US Prison Systems and how did its history set up the problems thatexist today? (maybe choose one topic tofocus on, probably incarceration of minorities) Introduction:Essentially talk about the historical aspects that influenced the penal system,don’t analyze this part as much, simply list information.
Include the Britishpenal system that the US was influenced by, the mental health reform, prisonreform, and others (research). Then move onto the global politics side, mainlywith mass incarceration and other issues that still exist today. Talk about howthese controversies may influence the future of the US penal system Europeanand British Influence on the United States Prison SystemTheUS Prison System, an institution over two hundred years old, has much of itsbeginnings in English Society. The basic idea can be found within the Englishworkhouse, a place for the idle poor of English society to recover from their “disease (Hirsch, 1992).” To combat this,the workhouse, an early jail, was created as a place for the idle to becommitted for a period of time.
Within twenty years of the first Englishworkhouse’s opening, in 1557, Parliament had made it law for every county toconstruct a workhouse. The reasons for incarceration in England expanded toinclude petty crimes in the 1620’s. As England developed throughout the 1700’sinto Great Britain, incarceration with hard labor was deemed an acceptablepunishment those that were convicted of larceny, were unable to be brought tothe Colonies, or for those serving a sentence before an execution. With therise of the American Revolution, the transportation of convicts from GreatBritain to the Colonies became difficult, and the Penitentiary Act was passed.The act required the construction of two prisons with a daily work schedule forhighly regulated and controlled prisoners (Hirsch, 1992). The influx ofprisoners into British prisons quickly caused their quality to deteriorate,which would lead to John Howard’s work as a proponent for prisoner’s rights andprison reform (Christianson, 1998) (Hirsch, 1992). John Howard, afterbeing imprisoned for a period of time himself, lead the way for prison reformin Great Britain, Europe, and the United States.
His 1777 publication, The State of the Prisons, included hispersonal accounts, plans, and ideas for prison improvements, such as basichygiene standards. He is credited for the design of single-celling, thepractice of segregating prisoners into individual cells instead of one communalarea or group cells, which would soon spread from Britain to the United States.In fact the penitentiaries built in the United States during the 1820’s, theAuburn and Eastern State, both would use solitary confinement and inmatedivision to rehabilitate inmates, ideas spawned from single-celling. Thesepenitentiaries would become models for future penitentiaries throughout theUnited States (Meranze, 1996) (Sherman & Hawkins, 1983).Beginningsof the United States Prison System As the Colonies grew in North America theydeveloped their own systems and uses for prisons and jails.
The United Statesprison system of the late 1600’s to mid-1700’s mostly lacked any prolongedconfinement. Instead of hard labor and imprisonment, punishments such as fines whippings,banishment, capital punishment by hanging, and the stocks were used asdeterrents in colonies, meanwhile in others community punishments were used todeter any “sinful” behavior (Christianson, 1998). “The Puritans whohad founded Massachusetts in 1630 viewed their war on crime as a moralnecessity, for they considered every crime a sin and every sin a crime …Believing that public humiliation would help deter others, the Puritansconstructed stocks in every public square … The punitive alphabet included “A”(adulterer), “B” (blasphemer), “D” (drunk), “F” (fighter), “M” (manslaughter),”R” (rogue), and “T” (thief). (Christianson, 1998)” While Massachusetts, one colony ofthirteen, was more religious and unique with their law code, it was the Quakersthat would find themselves in a unique situation to shape the prison system. TheQuakers would become interested in the existing Colonies penal system aftermany Quakers themselves were imprisoned (the Puritans had a habit of doing this).In fact the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, which was formed to escape religiouspersecution and imprisonment, had a criminal law code that favored imprisonmentinstead of the other community punishments that colonies such as Massachusettsfavored, with future individuals calling for prison reform to aid inmates (Christianson, 1998) (Henderson, Year Unknown).From the early days of the American colonies there existed a desire for prisonreform as different colonies experimented with different systems and morepeople experienced the faults within them, however there still was no cohesivesystem that could be systematically fixed. Since a punishment was employed moreoften than incarceration, jails were used primarily for pre-trial,pre-sentencing and for holding debtors or those that could not pay bail, mainlythe poor.
Most jails were attached tothe jailors house or residence, inmates were required to pay for their cell andbasic items, and without laws that set guidelines for how a jail should be run,most inmates’ basic rights and needs were neglected and escapes were bothcommon and mainly ignored (Christianson, 1998) (Hirsch, 1992). It took thepost-Revolution urbanization of the United States, and the increased crimerates and changing social mindsets that came with it, to create need for moreuniformity within the United States prisons and jails (Hirsch, 1992).Post-Revolution Changes and Reforms As Colonies, doubled, tripled, and evenincreased their populations by a factor of five, there became an urgent needfor an improved prison system within the United States. No longer wouldtraditional and corporal punishments be enough to deter petty crimes, as anincreased population size also came with increased urbanization, the socialstructures of the 1700’s began to deteriorate as social mobility became morefluid in the cities (Rothman, 1971). As this social change was occurring sowas the public’s idea of a new subclass, the criminal.
As crime rates appearedto rise, so did the desire to place this newly discovered “subclass” in alocation away from the other citizens (Hirsch, 1992). With the continualabolishment of slavery in some States, starting in 1777 with Vermont, and theslow discontinuation of outdated and ineffective methods of community-basedpunishments, fines, and banishment, as how could a community justify sending acriminal to another neighboring state or community (Meranze, 1996),and reformers of the time began to try and distance the United States from theBritish penal practices that had been used. With continued efforts to enforceincarceration as a primary punishment for crimes, by the 1820’s only threestates had yet to do so (Rothman, 1971). The ability toincarcerate inmates did not immediately lead to a spike in incarceration rates,as judges still retained the final say in the punishment of convicts and stillhad their choice of punishment so long as it matched the crime (Hirsch, 1992). The construction ofprisons progressed alongside the United States shift towards incarceration;however the true prison institutions would not form until the Jacksonian Era (Rothman, 1971).
TheJacksonian/Antebellum Era and the Modern Day Penitentiary As the nineteenth century progressed, so did the Americanperception of what constitutes criminality and how it should be dealt with. Theclassification of institutions began with the construct of not only jails orprisons, but penitentiaries for criminals, asylums for the mentally ill, andalmshouses for the poor. With the continual shift in perception also came thesocietal desire to define and trace criminality.
Reformers and officials of thetime concluded that society bred crime, with it corrupting people to fallinfluence to immorality and vice. In order to combat the degradation of societyat the hands of, well, society, officials sought to separate convicts fromsociety entirely in order to free or cure them of their immorality. In the1820’s New York would build two penitentiaries with that goal in mind, a placefor the convicted to live either entirely or partially in solitude (Rothman, 1971).
The Pennsylvania system favored complete solitude; an inmate worked, ate, andslept in the same cell for the duration of their sentence, with no outsidecontact. The purpose of the institution was for the inmate to rehabilitatethemselves through reflection and solitude, although it ended up driving manyinsane instead (Rothman, 1971). The eventual costof the building, $750,000, would prove to be too much for widespread use (Hirsch, 1992) (McKelvey, 1936).The Auburn System, another Northern penitentiary, would prove far moresuccessful and cost effective. This system had prisoners remain in solitudewhile they slept, but required group working hours during the day, althoughcommunication between inmates was strictly prohibited. Auburn began to classifyinmates based off of danger shortly into its operation, keeping the worstoffenders under complete solitary confinement, allowing those that exhibitedgood behavior from the middle offenders to work in groups, and the leastguilty, who worked and slept under the original design of the Auburn system.
Similarly to the Pennsylvania system, several men under complete solitude woulddie or go insane (Christianson, 1998). The problems withinthese systems weren’t entirely unaddressed, however. Reformers Francis Lieber, SamuelGridley Howe, and Dorothea Dix all sought improvements to these institutions,with libraries, education, reduced violence, and the separation of women andchildren from male convicts. Reform was limited, but the United States stillfelt as though it held the model prison for rehabilitation and punishment (ushistory.org).
As the AntebellumPeriod came to a close, fifteen states or territories had created apenitentiary that implemented a system similar to the Auburn system, a unifiedprison system had begun to form in the United States (McKelvey, 1936),although the South would prove to be opposed to this as it too developed duringthe Antebellum period. The South had not undergone the urbanization that existedin the North, and there existed an idea that no white person, not even acriminal, should have their freedom taken by any person or entity, especiallythe government. The persecution of petty criminals would be handled locally inmost rural communities of the South, with the government taking responsibilityof the more dangerous (Ayers, 1986).
Although publicsupport for penitentiaries was lacking in the South, only two states would failto construct one before the Civil War. The majority of inmates in theseinstitutions proved to be whites, as slaves were generally tried and punishedoutside of the penitentiary system. This did not prevent free blacks frommaking up a surprising third majority in some Southern states, however, a factthat concerned some lawmakers about the possibility of racial mixing (Ayers, 1986). As around ninetenths of the Southern population lived outside of an urban setting, violentcrimes were predominant. It was property crime and theft that was judgedharsher, leading to these convicts making up half of the South’s inmatepopulation while only making up twenty percent of criminals convicted in court (Ayers, 1986). This was due partlyto the difficulty in finding an unbiased jury in the close communities of theSouth, many violence trials ended in an acquittal rather than a conviction. While the North was unifying its idea of a prison systemaround its urban cities and areas, the South was struggling to enforce thosesame ideas amongst a scattered population that believed in the rights of anindividual over the government (Ayers, 1986). Despite thesedifferences the penitentiary had managed to make itself a place to grow withinAmerican society once the Civil War ended.
Reconstruction,Immigration, and Eugenics As prison populations increased past the capacity of boththe institutions and those there to control them, wardens and guards increasedthe use of treatments and devices, such as shackles, solitary confinement,simulated drowning, and paddling, in order to control the inmates (Rothman, Conscience and Convenience: The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive America, 2002).While abuse seemed widespread and investigations constant in some states, therewas little done to change how inmates were treated (Christianson, 1998).The general apathy that existed during the Reconstruction Era had to do withwho made up prison populations. During the late 1800’s immigration into theUnited States continued to rapidly increase, with millions of immigrantsarriving between the 1870’s and 1910’s.
Foreign born inmates outnumbered nativeborn two to one, while black natives outnumbered white natives three to one.Most inmates also possessed little to no education, worked in unskilled jobs,and lacked connections in the increasingly nativist society of the UnitedStates (Christianson, 1998). The emergence ofeugenics also posed a threat to the rights and conditions of inmates.Criminality became increasingly equated to genetics during this time, withpenitentiaries asylums recording data on their inmates, testing medicines,running experiments, and sterilizing their inmates, most with state support andfunding (Christianson, 1998). Due to fears of thecriminal class and the potential for their “inferior” genes to taint thepopulation there were little to no improvements during the Reconstruction Era,instead prisons saw an influx of minorities, an increase in abuse, and a lossin rights for inmates (Christianson, 1998) (Rothman, Conscience and Convenience: The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive America, 2002).Reform groups, however productive, were beginning to gather during this timethough, One group pushed for penitentiaries in order to prevent the return tothe lesser practices of corporal and traditional punishments. Another group,The National Congress, set out reform goals that included competentadministration, hygiene standards, education, less violent punishment, andrewards for good behavior. This group, however, also failed to gain muchsupport during the time, and cared little for the minority or foreign inmatesdue to their supposed genetic inferiority (Christianson, 1998).
A group did manageto make changes in the South that went by the name, The Ku Klux Klan. They andother Southerners pushed for local white police forces to maintain the racialstatus quo, and to protect white citizens. Black Americans were also excludedfrom the legal process and thus lost representation, further increases minoritypopulations within prisons as black defendants were convicted in the highestnumbers (Ayers, 1986). Southern Statespushed to pass “Black Codes” in the mid to late 1800’s, which made vagrancy acrime and thus punishable with servitude (Ayers, 1986).
Southern prisonsbecame more geared towards economic advantages as their black inmatepopulations continued to rise opposite to their white inmate populations.Convicts rebuilt a state’s infrastructure, were sent to mine, and continued tolease inmates to businesses and companies (Christianson, 1998). The convict leasesystem not only reestablished a form of slavery, it also allowed the devastatedeconomies of the Southern states to rebuild with essentially free labor at theexpense of minority groups, as death rates for leased convicts were three timesthe rates of those in the North (Ayers, 1986) (Christianson, 1998).
The Reconstruction Era served to reform prisons for the benefit of whitesoutherners, with foreigners and black natives being held subject to abuse,experimentation, and death. Public apathy would give way to empathy as theearly to mid-1900 progressed, however, especially as the Civil Rights Movementgained momentum.ProgressiveEra, Civil Rights Movement, and Law and Order Psychology and psychiatry began to find their placewithin the United States prison systems towards the start of the nineteenhundreds, with health officials becoming more involved in criminal policymaking. Little changed initially through an increased scientific perspective,however, as little was still understood about the “causes” of criminalitywithin a person.
The introduction of behavioral sciences began to refocusprisons on rehabilitation during the 1950’s, with rehabilitative practices thatfocused on the inmates correction more so than the punishment. Unfortunatelythe civil unrest and societal tension found a home within the prisons, andriots broke out in prisons across the United States, spurned by a lack ofhygiene standards, healthcare, food, and by excessive uses of force (Abadinsky, 2014) (Morris & Rothman, 1997). Three strikes lawDifference inpopulation and prison population Any other Prison Reform The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration and the Death Penalty / Rights(solitary confinement) These are really the two major controversies of today Drug use is treated differently among different ethnicities Death penalty might be overused Solitary confinement is basically considered to be torture How these will influence the policy of the future’ These might be split into separate paragraphs Conclusion