The Prison System

This paper discusses and analyzes the history, purpose, and other aspects of American prison. It is addressing the effects of the great penitentiary rivalry experienced between Pennsylvania and New York prisons in the current prison system in terms of design and how the inmates are housed. It also explores the effect of the rivalry on the peoples thinking on the roles of prisons. The paper also has comparisons between private and publicly funded prisons.

Brief history
The prison system in America was quite different to that found in England. The justice system then preferred corporal punishment to other forms of punishment. William Penn did not like the system and went ahead to adopt the Great law in Pennsylvania in 1682. This code of William condemned the use of torture and mutilations as a way of punishment. The criminals in this code were forced to pay their victims by properties of goods while those who could not pay were locked in prisons which were more or less like a workhouse. However, capital punishment was only passed on intentional murderous. The state of Pennsylvania proved different, but the rate of reform in other states and England moved at a snails pace (Gaines, 2006).

William Penn passed on in 1718 and there after the Great law was repealed to incorporate harsher punishments for the criminals in Pennsylvania just as other states. During the American Revolution, Quakers played a significant role in changing the prison system from serving as a punishment institution to offering rehabilitation. In 1776, a law was passed in Pennsylvania stating that the offenders should be rehabilitated through treatment and discipline instead of beatings and execution. Other states like Massachusetts and New York adopted the style of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania became the first state to open penitentiary wing in the Walnut Street Jail in 1790. It was assumed that silence and hard labor was the best way to make criminals change their ways. Silence would force the criminals to meditate about their offences and therefore would feel guilty and repent. Idleness on the other hand, was known to be the main cause of involvement in criminal activities therefore by providing hard labor, idleness will be eliminated. Apart from labor and silence, the offenders were kept in solitude and kept busy by menial jobs (Greene, 1997).

The impact of Great penitentiary on the current prison systems
Although the penitentiary at Walnut Street was bogged down by some problems, the concept did not disappear. Most states struggled to correct the problems which were facing the Walnut street prison Penitentiary by building new penitentiary units. Each and every state tried to interpret the roles of silence, labor, and solitary differently. The penitentiary of New York and Pennsylvania acted as the models for running prisons. The penitentiary models in Pennsylvania were based on transforming inmates into honest people while that of New York was based on obedience. In Pennsylvania, the principle of separate confinement was withheld while in New York, congregate system was adopted. The New York model proved popular and most prisons were build in copied their lead (Greene, 1997).

The emergence of different types of prisons today can be attributed to idea of penitentiary. The various examples of prisons include maximum security prisons, medium security prisons, and minimum security prisons. Some of the prison designs are carried from that of Pennsylvania and New York, but also some new designs have emerged. The new designs include radial, the courtyard, telephone pole, and the campus style designs. Radial design is meant for separation and control. Courtyard design takes the shape of a block and inmates are forced to walk across the courtyard to reach the other side of the prison. Telephone pole is aimed at keeping some particular activities at separate area (Gaines, 2006).

According to the penitentiary, the prison was to serve the purpose of reforming the wrongdoer by separating them and giving them work to avoid idleness. These thought have continued to affect peoples thinking on the purpose of the prison system today. People believe that prisoners should be separated to avoid them influencing one another and also be involved in providing labor to serve as a punishment for their offences.

Comparison between publicly funded and privately funded prisons
Publicly funded prisons get their entire funds from the government, which is they are run by tax payers money while privately funded prisons are managed by private individuals or organizations that are contracted by the state. The private prisons at times look more flexible and less effective in terms of rehabilitation of the inmates. Private prisons are involved in economic activities like garbage collection to enable them foot their bills (Greene, 1997).

The issue of privatizing prison has elicited a heated debate. The main reason for privatizing prisons is financial. By privatizing the prisons, the government cuts on the maintenance cost for these facilities. Services like garbage collection and road maintenance are also left to them so that they can get money from such jobs. The outrage on the issue of privatization was caused by the mentality of the citizens that may be the government is trying to exploit the prisoners by making money through them.

Private prisons have been supported on the grounds that they help the government to cut off extra expenses for their maintenance. Private prisons can be run cheaply as compared to public ones because the labor costs they incur are much lower as compared to those of public prisons. This is as a result of law wages paid to their non unionized workers (Gaines, 2006).

The arguments of those opposed to privatization are the possibility of the companies to try by all means to cut costs thereby denying the inmates crucial security assurance. Financial concerns associated with the private correction facilities include the possibility of increasing the days of the inmates for the state to continue paying for space occupied. On philosophical grounds, critics argue that correctional facilities should not be turned into industries like garbage collection and road maintenance. They argue that it is the role of the government to offer punishment but not any other body (Greene, 1997).


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