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February 21, 2018

If you really want to get into Eastern State Penitentiary and other (in)famous US prisons past and present....

then this post can help facilitate discussion and reflection on prison history in the United States, building on the video about Eastern State Penitentiary and the modern reality that time in jail or prisons is now our default punishment for crimes both major and minor.  If you are interested in learning more about Eastern State, check out this terrific website.   Notably, the Eastern State Penitentiary has this new exhibit on "Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration."  And that includes this little survey: "What are Prisons For? Take the quiz."

In addition, there are lots of other (in)famous prisons that tell stories about not only American crime and punishment, but also stories about America.  Some Ohio-centric stories are to be found within in this history, as documented via this book entitled "Central Ohio's Historic Prisons."  That book is summarized this way:

With the opening of the Ohio State Reformatory in 1896, the state legislature had put in place "the most complete prison system, in theory, which exists in the United States."  The reformatory joined the Ohio Penitentiary and the Boys Industrial School, also central-Ohio institutions, to form the first instance of "graded prisons; with the reform farm on one side of the new prison, for juvenile offenders, and the penitentiary on the other, for all the more hardened and incorrigible class."  However, even as the concept was being replicated throughout the country, the staffs of the institutions were faced with the day-to-day struggle of actually making the system work.

The Ohio State Reformatory referenced in this passage is located in Mansfield, and is now an historic site.   I urge everyone to take a virtual tour via this huge photo gallery.  And if you are ever looking for some web-surfing fun, check out these additional links to some good sites about some of the United States' most (in)famous prisons:

Notably, a few years ago, students had a lot to say in the wake of watching the ESP video, and you might be interested to read these 2011 student comments about prison history. This coming week, we will be shifting back into a discussion of sentencing law and the (non-capital) sentencing process, but everyone should keep thinking about both the theory and practices of imprisonment as a form of punishment as we get into the nitty-gritty of modern sentencing doctrines.

February 21, 2018 in Alternatives to imprisonment, Scope of imprisonment, Theories of punishment | Permalink


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