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Early Prisons: Middle Ages. First prison existed in Europe – 1400 & 1500s – for debtors. Philadelphia. Converted to prison by Quakers Study of bible was primary method Goal was to provide religion and humanity to imprisoned Offenders held in solitary confinement No more Corporal Punishment.

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Early Prisons: Middle Ages

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Early Prisons:Middle Ages

First prison existed in Europe – 1400 & 1500s – for debtors


Converted to prison by Quakers

Study of bible was primary method

Goal was to provide religion and humanity to imprisoned

Offenders held in solitary confinement

No more Corporal Punishment

Penitentiary Era (1790-1825):Walnut Street Jail


Became known as the “Pennsylvania System”

Handicrafts were introduced allowing prisoners to work in their cells

Penitentiary Era (1790-1825):Walnut Street Jail

Penitentiary Era

- “congregate,” but, silent style

Offenders ate, lived, and worked together in silence

Corporal punishment was used for rule violators

From 1825 onward – most prisons built in U.S. followed Auburn system

Became known as the “Auburn System”

New York State Prison at Auburn

Mass Prison Era (1825-1876)

Mass Prison Era (Auburn System)

Reformatory Era (1876-1890)

Based upon use of indeterminate sentence and belief in rehabilitation

Reformatory movement is the result of the work of two men:

  • Captain Alexander Maconochie

  • Zebulon Brockway

Reformatory Era (1876-1890):Elmira Reformatory (1876)

Zebulon Brockway was warden at Elmira

A leading advocate of the indeterminate sentence

Elmira accepted only first time offenders between ages 16-30

Reformatory Era (1876-1890):Elmira Reformatory (1876)

Training made available in such areas as:

  • telegraphy

  • tailoring

  • plumbing

  • carpentry

  • The movement was a failure (no change in outside social conditions)

  • Reformatory Era

    Reformatory Era (1876-1890):Captain Alexander Maconochie

    • Warden of Norfolk Island prison off of coast of Australia in 1840s

    • prisoners at Norfolk were “doubly condemned”

      • They had been “transported” to Australia because of crimes they had committed and then they were punished for new crimes while in Australia

    Reformatory Era (1876-1890):Captain Alexander Maconochie

    • Maconochie developed “mark system”

    • prisoners could earn credits to buy their freedom

    • negative behavior caused marks to be lost

      Mark system constituted first “early release” program

  • Maconochie became known as “father of parole”

  • Norfolk Island / Penal Colonies

    Residence for insane

    • A drawing shows Sydney, Australia, in 1788, at the time of its founding as a British penal colony.

    Southern Prisons

    Prisoners replaced freed slaves

    Farm labor

    Public works projects

    Goal – to maximize use of offender labor movement began in industrial northeast U.S.

    Northern Prisons

    Smelted steel

    Made furniture

    Molded tires

    Industrial Prison Era: (1890-1935)

    Industrial Era

    Specifically prohibited interstate transportation and sale of prison made goods where prohibited by state law

    Act came about partly as a result of the Depression

    Ashurst-Sumners Act ended industrial prison era

    Industrial Prison Era: (1890-1935)Ashurst-Sumners Act (1935)

    With moratorium on prison industries – prisons reverted back to custody and security as main goals

    Large maximum security prisons evolved in rural “out-of-sight” locations

     Alcatraz

    Punitive Era (1935-1945)

    Punitive Era

    Development of behavioral techniques in 1930s and 1940s brought about concept of treatment in prisons

    “Correctional Facilities”

    Treatment based on “medical model”

    Individual and group therapy programs evolved

    Treatment Era (1945-1967)

    Types of therapy programs:

    Behavioral therapy



    Sensory deprivation

    Aversion therapy

    Treatment Era (1945-1967)


    Used to control aggressive behavior and destructive urges – frontal lobotomies were part of this approach

    Sensory deprivation

    Denial of stimulation by isolating prisoners in quiet, secluded environment

    Aversion therapy

    Drugs and/or electric shock used to teach prisoner to associate negative behavior with pain and displeasure

    Treatment Era (1945-1967)

    Treatment Era

    Community-Based Treatment Era (1967-1980)

    • Relies upon resources of community instead of prison

    • Plan is to keep offender in the community

    • Half-way house – community-based treatment program whereby individual lives at house but is allowed to go to work during the day

    Robert Martinson

    “Nothing Works” Study (1974)

    Surveyed 231 research studies that evaluated correctional treatment programs between 1945-1967

    None of the 231 programs appeared to substantially reduce recidivism

    Warehousing/Overcrowding Era (1980-1995)

    • public and judicial disapproval of release programs and recidivism led to longer sentences with fewer releases

    • prison overcrowding became widespread

    • greater emphasis on incarcerating non-violent drug offenders

    Warehousing Era

    Imprisonment is seen as fully deserved and a proper consequence of criminal behavior

    Root purpose of imprisonment is punishment

    AKA “Justice Model” - Get what you deserve

    Zero Tolerance

    Loss of priviledges

    Chain Gangs in Alabama, Florida, Arizono

    General Deterrence at work

    Just Deserts Era (1995-present)

    Reductions in –

    personal property allowed

    restrictions on outside purchases

    elimination of cable TV

    abolish family visits

    no more special occasion banquets

    1995 – Virginia abolishes parole, increased the length of sentences for certain violent crimes, and planned building of 12 new prisons

    1995 – 28 states reported a decrease in prisoner privileges during previous 12 months

    Just Deserts Era (1995-present)

    Just Deserts

    Prison Population of the United States

    Prisons Today

    • Whites- 1229 incarcerated per 100,000 white males in their late 20’s.

    • Blacks- 10,376 incarcerated per 100,000 black males in their late 20’s.


    • low level of formal education

    • socially disadvantaged background

    • lack of significant vocational skills

    • (most) served time in a juvenile facility


    Security Levels




    Prisons Today – STATE LEVEL


    high fences/walls of concrete

    barriers between living area and outer perimeter

    --electric perimeters

    --laser motion detectors

    --electronic and pneumatic locking systems

    --metal detectors

    --X-ray machines

    --television surveillance

    Prisons Today


    Similar in design to maximum security facilities, however, theyallow prisoners more freedom. In them, prisoners can usually:

    associate with other prisoners

    go to the prison yard

    use exercise room/equipment

    visit the library

    take showers and use bathroom facilities with less supervision

    Prisons Today


    Dormitory style housing is sometimes used.

    Cells and living quarters tend to have more windows.

    These facilities tend to have barbed wire fences instead of large stone walls.

    Prisons Today


    Housing tends to be dormitory style,and prisoners usually have freedom of movement within the facility.

    Work is done under general supervision only.

    Guards are unarmed, and gun towers do not exist.

    Fences, if they exist, are low and sometimes unlocked.

    “Counts” are usually not taken.

    Prisoners are sometimes allowed to wear their own clothes.

    Prisons Today

    • Martha Stewart’s Minimum Security Prison

    Alderson Federal prison camp in Alderson, WV

    original purpose- Short-term confinement of suspects following arrest and awaiting trial.

    current use- Jails hold those convicted of misdemeanors and some felonies, as well as holding suspects following arrest and awaiting trial.

     sentences are less than one year (usually)


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