Prevention History of Corrections—Punishment or Rehabilitation? - Ancient Times, Medieval Times, The Rise Of Nations, Colonial And Earlypost-revolutionary Periods
punishment eye prisoners changed
A terrible stinking dark and dismal place situated underground into which no daylight can come. It was paved with stone; the prisoners had no beds
and lay on the pavement and whereby they endured great misery and hardship.
—Inmate at Newgate Prison, London (1724)
Public views of punishment for crimes have changed over the centuries. History has its clement and its stormy seasons, and during times of war, famine, and disorder, gains made in peace and plenty are sometimes lost. Yet generally over time most societies have moved from the extraction of personal or family justice—vengeful
acts such as blood feuds or the practice of "an eye for an eye"—toward formal systems based on written codes and orderly process. Jails and prisons have changed from being holding places where prisoners awaited deportation, maiming, whippings, beatings, or execution. Confinement itself has become the punishment. In the United States today, as articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court, punishment has
at least four justifications: deterrence, societal retribution, rehabilitation, and incapacitation—the last category intended to protect society by permanently incarcerating those who cannot be reformed.
Many ancient cultures allowed the victim or a member of the victim's family to deliver justice. The offender often fled to his or her family for protection. As a result, blood feuds developed in which the victim's family sought revenge against the offender's family. Sometimes the offender's family responded by striking back.
Retaliation could continue until the families…
As in ancient times, medieval Europe had very harsh punishments. Torture and death were commonly administered. From the depths of the "Dark Ages" came cruel instruments that tortured as they killed. For example, the rack stretched its victims until their bodies were torn apart. The Iron Maiden—a box thickly set with sharp
spikes inside and on the inner side of its door—…
Just as in Europe, physical punishment was common in colonial America. Americans used stocks, pillories, branding, flogging, and maiming—such as cutting off an ear or slitting nostrils—to punish offenders. The death penalty was used frequently. In 1636 the Massachusetts Bay Colony listed thirteen crimes that warranted
execution, including murder, practicing witchcraft, and worshippin…
The idea of individual freedom and the concept that people could change society for the better by using reason permeated American society in the 1800s. Reformers worked to abolish slavery, secure women's rights, and prohibit liquor, as well as to change the corrections system. In 1787 in Pennsylvania, a group campaigning for
more humane treatment of prisoners established the Philadelphia So…
By 1900 Brockway's correctional philosophy had spread throughout the nation. Nonetheless, by World War I (1914–18), the idea of using educational and rehabilitative approaches was being replaced by the use of strict discipline. The way the facilities were built, the lack of trained personnel, and the attitudes of the guards
made Brockway's ideas difficult to implement. In add…
Despite the efforts of reformers, most societies prefer that prisons pay their own way. To do this, prison administrators have at times constructed factories within prison walls or hired inmates out as laborers in "chain gangs." In rural areas inmates worked on prison-owned farms. In the South prisoners—predominantly
African-American—were often leased out to local farme…
As crime increased in the late 1980s, and the community corrections model seemed unsuccessful, the pendulum once again swung the other way. Pressure began mounting against rehabilitation, indeterminate sentencing, probation, parole, and treatment programs. Some penologists advocated putting criminals behind bars for a
determinate amount of time, noting that offenders should be kept off the streets…
According to a 1996 survey conducted by the College of Criminal Justice (CCJ) of Sam Houston State University in Texas, about half of the public sees the goal of prisons as rehabilitation (48.4%). A minority (14.6%) sees the goal as punishment, while the remaining third (33.1%) holds the opinion that prisons should prevent and
deter crime. Recidivism rates are an indirect indicator of the correcti…
By the late 1700s children ages seven years or younger were presumed to be incapable of criminal intent, a concept that has carried over to the present time. In the nineteenth century a movement arose based on sixteenth-century European educational reform movements that changed the concept of a child from a "miniature adult"
to an individual with less fully developed cognitive capaci…
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