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History[ edit ] Ancient and medieval[ edit ] The use of prisons can be traced back to the rise of the state as a form of social organization.
Corresponding with the advent of the state was the development of written languagewhich enabled the creation of formalized legal codes as official guidelines for society. The best known of these early legal codes is the Code of Hammurabiwritten in Babylon around BC.
The penalties for violations of the laws in Hammurabi's Code were almost exclusively centered on the concept of lex talionis "the law of retaliation"whereby people were punished as a form of vengeance, often by the victims themselves.
This notion of punishment as vengeance or retaliation can also be found in many other legal codes from early civilizations, including the ancient Sumerian codes, the Indian Manama Dharma Astrathe Hermes Trismegistus of Egypt, and the Israelite Mosaic Law.
Some Ancient Greek philosophers, such as Platobegan to develop ideas of using punishment to reform offenders instead of simply using it as retribution. Imprisonment as a penalty was used initially for those who could not afford to pay their fines. Eventually, since impoverished Athenians could not pay their fines, leading to indefinite periods of imprisonment, time limits were set instead.
A variety of existing structures were used to house prisoners, such as metal cages, basements of public buildings, and quarries. One of the most notable Roman prisons was the Mamertine Prisonestablished around B.
The Mamertine Prison was located within a sewer system beneath ancient Rome and contained a large network of dungeons Defendants opening statement essay prisoners were held in squalid conditions,  contaminated with human waste.
Forced labor on public works projects was also a common form of punishment.
In many cases, citizens were sentenced to slaveryoften in ergastula a primitive form of prison where unruly slaves were chained to workbenches and performed hard labor.
The possession of the right and the capability to imprison citizens, however, granted an air of legitimacy to officials at all levels of government, from kings to regional courts to city councils ; and the ability to have someone imprisoned or killed served as a signifier of who in society possessed power or authority over others.
Castellania Valletta From the late 17th century and during the 18th century, popular resistance to public execution and torture became more widespread both in Europe and in the United States. Particularly under the Bloody Codewith few sentencing alternatives, imposition of the death penalty for petty crimes, such as theft, was proving increasingly unpopular with the public; many jurors were refusing to convict defendants of petty crimes when they knew the defendants would be sentenced to death.
Rulers began looking for means to punish and control their subjects in a way that did not cause people to associate them with spectacles of tyrannical and sadistic violence.
They developed systems of mass incarcerationoften with hard labor, as a solution. The first was based in Enlightenment ideas of utilitarianism and rationalismand suggested that prisons should simply be used as a more effective substitute for public corporal punishments such as whipping, hanging, etc.
This theory, referred to as deterrenceclaims that the primary purpose of prisons is to be so harsh and terrifying that they deter people from committing crimes out of fear of going to prison.
The second theory, which saw prisons as a form of rehabilitation or moral reform, was based on religious ideas that equated crime with sin, and saw prisons as a place to instruct prisoners in Christian morality, obedience and proper behavior. These later reformers believed that prisons could be constructed as humane institutions of moral instruction, and that prisoners' behavior could be "corrected" so that when they were released, they would be model members of society.
Punishment usually consisted of physical forms of punishment, including capital punishment, mutilationflagellation whippingbrandingand non-physical punishments, such as public shaming rituals like the stocks.
However, an important innovation at the time was the Bridewell House of Corrections, located at Bridewell Palace in London, which resulted in the building of other houses of correction. These houses held mostly petty offenders, vagrants, and the disorderly local poor. In these facilities, inmates were given jobs, and through prison labor they were taught how to work for a living.
By the end of the 17th century, houses of correction were absorbed into local prison facilities under the control of the local justice of the peace. England used penal transportation of convicted criminals and others generally young and poor for a term of indentured servitude within the general population of British America between the s and The Transportation Act made this option available for lesser crimes, or offered it by discretion as a longer-term alternative to the death penalty, which could theoretically be imposed for the growing number of offenses.
The substantial expansion of transportation was the first major innovation in eighteenth-century British penal practice. While sentencing to transportation continued, the act instituted a punishment policy of hard labour instead.
The suspension of transport also prompted the use of prisons for punishment and the initial start of a prison building program. Gaols at the time were run as business ventures, and contained both felons and debtors; the latter were often housed with their wives and younger children.
The gaolers made their money by charging the inmates for food, drink, and other services, and the system was generally corruptible.Paul Kingsnorth is a writer and poet living in Cumbria, England. He is the author of several books, including the poetry collection Kidland and his fictional debut The Wake, winner of the Gordon Burn Prize and the Bookseller Book of the Year Award.
Kingsnorth is the cofounder and director of the Dark Mountain Project, a network of writers, artists, and thinkers.
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