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.