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American corrections history
The prisons or the correction units have been for long a part and parcel of the American history. These institutions have existed as far back as the slave trade era. Later on, under the watch of the colonialists, jails became the first public institutions that were built to act as holding places fro the wayward emigrants and later or bondage system. Each state was required to have a prison facility that was built at the expense of the citizens, notably each new facility being made more secure and permanent than the previous one with iron bars, bricks and stone making them more impervious than the previous model. During these times, there were more prisons than schools and hospitals in the U.S.A., they were as many as churches and taverns combined. These institutions were even used by Puritans in several areas including Massachusetts to confine those who castigated the puritan beliefs like burning of witches.
In the course of eighteenth century prisoner trading increased and a growing discontent by this trend was resultant throughout America paving way for the bloodiest mass action of the time. The Boston massacre was a violent conflict over imprisonment. The violent revolts persisted and towards the close of the century, there were several tumults, protests and jail breaks especially among the New England colonies, this was a prerequisite to the outbreak of the American Revolution. Up until this time the prisons were used for holding people awaiting the court trial, debtors and many a times the witnesses themselves. There were numerous fees charged with impunity for instance the fees for food, clothing, heating, locking and unblocking of prisoners' cells, attachment and removal of shackles upon court appearances and such like fees.
In 1783 Benjamin Franklin led a group of prominent citizens in the pushing for a repeal of the 1718 penal code that was seen to be too inhumane for the inmates. They successfully lobbied for the replacement of the severe punishment with the hard labor sentences. In the late 1780s, there was an overwhelming urge for the reformation of the prison system. Of significant attention is the 1790 Act that radically changed the Walnut Street jail in Pennsylvania. Cells that measured 18 feet square meant for solitary confinement of hardened criminals who posed danger to the other petty offenders in the prison were introduced and trade instructions provided to the prisoners. By 1795 prison populations swelled and the separation cells were now holding 30 to 40 prisoners instead, inevitably the previously eradicated abuses started creeping back (Norman Johnston, 2011).
By the early 1800s several Prison Societies in the U.S.A. were already established and pushed for the building of larger cells as well as better conditions for the inmates. This resulted in the construction of major prisons like the Eastern State Penitentiary with facilities like the central heating systems, flush toilets and shower baths.
In the 1860s, the Prison Society grew stronger and more efficient offering the prisoners advocacy and oversight, regular visits in prison as well as assisting the released men and women. The effect of the Prison Societies was so effective and their regular visits to the prisons to access the conditions under which the prisoners were living helped stop some abuses that would have occurred as well as improving the living standards of the prisoners. In 1913 for instance, Thomas Mott Osborne (Warden of Auburn prison by then) through the Mutual Welfare League broke the silence code and initiated the inmate self-governance which significantly improved situation in prisons and reduced recidivism. Politicians subsequently attacked him leading to his resignation and a dissolution of the Mutual Welfare League in 1929, a fact that saw sprouting of various heavy prisoner riots (Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 1950).
In the European history there is a stage when all acts of justice on a personal level had been left and society had come up with a subculture behind bars this was used to deal with elements found within society who do not follow the stipulated format of identifying right from wrong. An offender could no longer flee from justice by moving to their family stronghold so that they can get united protection as it was done in days before. Retaliation from an individual's family was no longer acceptable as a form of justice. Public offenders in medieval Europe had to go through extreme punishment like torture to death. The justice system had a dark age and has slowly progressed with minor improvement (Parish, 2012).
During 17th century, criminals were staged in open view of the public in an effort to shame them and hence discourage them from a repeat of similar behavior. It included pillory and whipping in public. It was quite normal for even small offenses to get death penalties. In Europe early prisons were just holding rooms where offenders were placed as they waited for trail and punishment they lacked proper maintenance and they were home for disgusting diseases, the inmates often died from diseases they contacted while in there. There was a great leap when a house of correction was established that held petty offenders or disorderly.
In the 18th century, death penalties were slowly being outlawed. There was also imprisonment with hard labor. there was a motion set by John Howard in 1777 to end barbaric conditions in house of corrections (Parish, 2012). There was transformations that saw the use of paid staff as opposed to volunteers. In the 19th century saw the repelling of capital punishment save for hideous crimes. Imprisonment was now replacing capital punishment slowly.
This history has had a great influence on today's American corrections practices since it was concluded that capital punishment was not an effective form of punishment. Hence in the 20th century there have been various reforms registered that advocates the separation of the youth and adult offenders. There has also been abolishment of hard labor and custom flogging. This also led to better treatment requirements for the offenders in America
The correction practices today and in 1800s is quite comparable; in both practices the aim of corrections is to contain, control, punish, restrain, to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders in the society. In both past and present times there are prisons that are put in place where offenders are held and are confined there where they face punishment and rehabilitation.
There is however a difference between correctional practices in the 1800s and the present time. First in the 1800s the main aim of correctional practice was punishment that was often accompanied by hard labor and beating of the offenders. This is in contrast to the current correctional practices that aim for rehabilitation of the offenders. Basically we can see that there has been a shift from physical punishment to psychological punishment of offenders. In the 1800s prisons were simple rooms were the offenders were held but in recent times the prisons have been improved greatly with the addition of many programs, farms, shops, classes and also recreational facilities that have led to better control of the prisoners. There has also been the introduction of parole in judicial proceedings that did not exist in correction facilities in the early times. There has also been the separation between child offenders and adult offenders with the introduction of juvenile systems that enable this. This is a new evolution that did not exist in the 1800s (O'Connor, 2012).
The other recent and positive development in the correction department is the introduction of the privatization of prisons, which is referred to as a way of taking over the existing public amenities or facilities by the private operators, building of new operations and additional prisons by for profit prison sectors. Private prisons are safer, efficient and effective compared to the public sector prisons. This is because;…[continue]
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