The Prison System

The Prison System

To my surprise the word penitentiary was referred to institutions that accepted prostitutes for reform; these institutions would house the prostitutes and help them with their sinful ways. The word penitentiary also arises from the word penitent, which means to express regret or sorrow for having commit sins or misdeeds.

Prisons today are much more civilized than in earlier years. Conditions years ago were intolerable to say the least. Prisons years ago were all about taking away one’s liberty with harsh punishment or by death. Even after the Civil War and primarily in the South, prisoners were leased for labor. This type of imprisonment was called the convicted lease program in which men would purchase their laborer for the price of the offender’s fines. Unfortunately, most of the convicted were poor, homeless or black. As stated by the author Anderson, M. (2004) “Still, in term of cost and economic benefit, convict labor was more advantageous than chattel slavery for the purchaser because the practice enforced social hierarchies and filled an economic need”. For the purchaser the convict was just a leased laborer, if he or she died on plantation the owner would not lose any property, the owner would simply lease another to replace the lost worker. It is sad to say but many of these leased criminals died on these plantations. This type of conviction seems as though this was the South’s political way of slavery for the blacks and less fortunate.

Today we view prisons as a place to house individuals that are a threat to society; these individuals basically lose their freedom. However, prisons from the eighteenth century in England had little to do with punishment. These facilities were used to hold those awaiting trial, debtors, execution or banishment from their community. But as the colonies came into America their correctional system changed.

In 1790 Pennsylvania opened the first penitentiary, the Walnut Street jail. The...

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