19th century prisons in america

of emigration to our shore from the degenerated populations of crowded European marts. [154] Most criminals remained outside of formal state control structures—especially outside of Southern cities. Every prison, gaol, and lockup at the time had a system of fees that ensured the destitute would die in a debtors’ prison. The Squirrel Cage was the perfect example of a rotary jail in every way. [34] Vagrancy statutes began to provide for penal transportation to the American colonies as an alternative to capital punishment in this period, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. [294] North Carolina had failed to erect a penitentiary in the antebellum period, and its legislators planned to build an Auburn-style penitentiary to replace the penal labor system. [43] In the 1720s, James Oglethorpe settled the colony of Georgia almost entirely with convict settlers. Even though the 19th century brought reform, the prisons built then weren’t much more sanitary. [178] But for those women who did come under the control of Southern prisons, conditions were often "horrendous," according to Edward L. Inside, they were free to walk around, converse, argue, have sex, and trade illegal goods among themselves. [292], Soon after hostilities officially ceased between the United States and the Confederate States of America, black "vagrants" in Nashville, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana, were being fined and sent to the city workhouse. It was the population boom in the eastern states that led to the reformation of the prison system in the U.S.[6] According to the Oxford History of the Prison, in order to function prisons "keep prisoners in custody, maintain order, control discipline and a safe environment, provide decent conditions for prisoners and meet their needs, including health care, provide positive regimes which help prisoners address their offending behavior and allow them as full responsible a life as possible and help prisoners prepare for their return to their community"[7]. [48] Benjamin Franklin called convict transportation "an insult and contempt, the cruellest, that ever one people offered to another. [22], A major political obstacle to implementing the philanthropists' solitary program in England was financial: Building individual cells for each prisoner cost more than the congregate housing arrangements typical of eighteenth-century English jails. Before the Civil War, virtually all Southern prisoners were white, but under post-war leasing arrangements almost all (approximately 90 percent) were black. [229] One reason for this apathy, according to authors Scott Christianson and David Rothman, was the composition of contemporary prison populations. On the one hand, its purpose was to rehabilitate offenders; on the other, its reform principles were tempered by a belief in the heritability of criminal behavior. "Idleness" had been a status crime since Parliament enacted the Statute of Laborers in the mid-fourteenth century. Most of us are pretty keen on staying out of prison. Dorothea Dix toured prisons in the U.S. and all over Europe looking at the conditions of the mentally handicapped. Americans were in favour of reform in the early 1800s. [231] This trend continued until immigration reached a zenith between 1904 and 1914 of 1 million persons per year. Bibliography On the historical relations among prison, labor, slavery, and imperialism Ayers, E. L. Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment in the 19th Century American … By 1885, 138 prisons employed more than 53,000 inmates who produced goods valued at $741 million today. And two, these prisons are making a serious comeback in the United States, which is deeply problematic for the poor and working … [114], To advocates of both systems, the promise of institutionalization depended upon isolating the prisoner from the moral contamination of society and establishing discipline in him (or, in rarer cases, her). [122] Solitude, not labor, was its hallmark; labor was reserved only for those inmates who affirmatively earned the privilege. [175] The majority of Southern inmates during the antebellum period were foreign-born whites. [27] But, unlike the philanthropists, Bentham and like-minded rationalists believed the true goal of rehabilitation was to show convicts the logical "inexpedience" of crime, not their estrangement from religion. At least some of its proponents hoped that the experience of incarceration would rehabilitate workhouse residents through hard labor. Only 27,000 convicts were engaged in some form of labor arrangement in the 1890s South. [7] The Auburn System, as it was later recognized, involved intentionally breaking a prisoner’s spirit. [171] All inmates served a mandatory period of solitary confinement after initial entry. [359] Mississippi enacted a new state constitution in 1890 that called for the end of the lease by 1894. [342], The source of convicts also changed in the post-war South. First, it would be attached to an iron hook that was held between the thighs. [280] But black property offenders were convicted more often than white ones—at a rate of eight convictions for every ten black defendants, compared to six of every ten white defendants. "[131] Inmates were permitted no intelligence of events on the outside. [10] Supporters expressed the belief that forced abstinence from "idleness" would make vagrants into productive citizens. A short day was ten hours, and the work was always monotonous and sometimes even pointless. [318] Men with capital, from the North and the South, bought years of these convicts' lives and put them to work in large mining and railroad operations, as well as smaller everyday businesses. Thomas G. Thompson was the head of a salvage company that in 1988 found the S.S. Central America, a steamship that sank … [339], Most convicts were in their twenties or younger. [21] In their conception of prison as a "penitentiary," or place of repentance for sin, the English philanthropists departed from Continental models and gave birth to a largely novel idea—according to social historians Michael Meranze and Michael Ignatieff—which in turn found its way into penal practice in the United States. The function of the prison was to isolate, teach obedience, and use labor for the means of production through the inmates. [181] To avoid these conflicts, some states—like Georgia and Mississippi—experimented with prison industry for state-run enterprises. [311], In Southern cities, a different form of violence emerged in the post-war years. [302] Overall, conviction rates for whites dropped substantially from antebellum levels during the Reconstruction Era and continued to decline throughout the last half of the nineteenth century. The newer prisons of the era, like New York’s Auburn Prison, shepherded men into individual cells at night and silent labor during the day, a model that would prove enduring. 19th Century Prison Reform The Early 19th century- In the early 19th century, the idea of prisons as places of reform became popular. A small town population in a rural, lawless stretch of the US didn’t want to pay for a huge conventional jailhouse that would need to be staffed by several jailers in perpetuity. This reduction of capital crimes created a need for other forms of punishment, which led to incarceration of longer periods of time. [36] King James I's royal administration also sent "vagrant" children to the New World as servants. [339] The reasons for this are likely two-fold, Edward L. Ayers suggests. [342], The Southern lease system was something less than a "total system. This led to a system of corruption in which prisoners were forced to pay for every single service provided, from having food and water delivered to being shackled in irons as punishment. "[33] The colonists themselves lived, in effect, as prisoners of the Company's governor and his agents. Ayers. Prisons offer greater chances of gang indoctrination than rehabilitation. [163] But consistent and enthusiastic support for the penitentiary did come, almost uniformly, from Southern governors. The… The ultimate goal for both blacks and whites was to obtain political power in the vacuum created by war and emancipation; again, blacks ultimately lost this struggle during the Reconstruction period. [179] Southern governors of the antebellum period tended to have little patience for prisons that did not turn a profit or, at least, break even. The result was the predominance of archaic and punitive laws that only served to perpetuate crime. Mississippi sent its prisoners to Alabama for safekeeping in the midst of a Northern invasion. In the 1800s, Dorothea Dix toured prisons in the U.S. and all over Europe looking at the conditions of the mentally handicapped. Thus, they were run like businesses. [293] In San Antonio, Texas, and Montgomery, Alabama, free blacks were arrested, imprisoned, and put to work on the streets to pay for their own upkeep. "[324] A Northern writer in the 1920s referred to the Southern chain gang as the South's new "peculiar institution". [76], The population of the former British colonies also became increasingly mobile during the eighteenth century, especially after the Revolution. That proved to be one of its biggest problems, and it was the reason that the jail was dubbed a huge failure within the first two years of its existence. There wasn’t much room for socializing already, but the paranoia of prison officials was hard to calm. [230] Commentators grafted the Darwinian concept of "survival of the fittest" onto notions of social class. Their absolute best was bizarre and dehumanizing. [3] But penal incarceration had been utilized in England as early as the reign of the Tudors, if not before. [327], But many Southern states—including North Carolina, Mississippi, Virginia, and Georgia—soon turned to the lease system as a temporary expedient, as rising costs and convict populations outstripped their meager resources. Instead of truly resting the prisoners, this seemed to keep them on death’s door without pushing them over the threshold. [80] Contemporary accounts also suggest widespread transiency among former criminals. [80] In the Philadelphia of the 1780s, for example, city authorities worried about the proliferation of taverns on the outskirts of the city, "sites of an alternative, interracial, lower-class culture" that was, in the words of one observer, "the very root of vice. "[263], Some proponents of the lease claimed that the system would teach blacks to work, but many contemporary observers came to recognize—as historian C. Vann Woodward later would—that the system dealt a great blow to whatever moral authority white society had retained in its paternalistic approach to the "race problem. Historical Insights Prison Life—1865 to 1900. Outbreaks of typhus ravaged the small holding prisons known as gaols, so thoroughly that it earned the nickname “gaol fever.” A prisoner’s chances of dying doubled when they entered the building. [85] As the former American colonists expanded their political loyalty beyond the parochial to their new state governments, promoting a broader sense of the public welfare, banishment (or "warning out") also seemed inappropriate, since it merely passed criminals onto a neighboring community. [180] But this fomented unrest among workers and tradesmen in Southern towns and cities. so by theyr life yet the commyn welth schold take some profit. [343] The number of women in Southern prison systems, increased in the post-war years to about 7 percent, a ratio not incommensurate with other contemporary prisons in the United States, but a major increase for the South, which had previously boasted of the moral rectitude of its (white) female population. [289], "The most far-reaching change in the history of crime and punishment in the nineteenth-century South," according to historian Edward L. Ayers, was "the state's assumption of control over blacks from their ex-masters . Imprisonment as a form of criminal punishment only became widespread in the United States just before the American Revolution, though penal incarceration efforts had been ongoing in England since as early as the 1500s, and prisons in the form of dungeons and various detention facilities had existed since long before then. Debtors’ prison was a fear somewhere in the mind of every person, poor or wealthy, in the 19th century. The work would easily qualify as hard labor. [210] Instead, fines were the mainstay of rural Southern justice. "[159], A sizable portion of the Southern population—if not the majority—did not support the establishment of the penitentiary. [38], The infusion of kidnapped children, maids, convicts, and Africans to Virginia during the early part of the seventeenth century inaugurated a pattern that would continue for nearly two centuries. Sentences were extremely long and of fixed duration. Linda Gilbert established 22 prison libraries of from 1,500 to 2,000 volumes each, in six states. [217] Auburn and Eastern State penitentiaries, the paradigmatic prisons of Jacksonian reform, were little different. [321] Former slaves were the easiest Southern demographic to impress into service and adapt southern industries to these changes. [107] At the same time, other novel institutions—the asylum and the almshouse—redefined care for the mentally ill and the poor. The closest thing to a modern prison was a house of correction, a place to reform beggars and unwed mothers, or a debtors’ prison, a place to keep people until their debts were paid. Many of the reforms that improved quality of life for inmates, such as vocational training, educational classes, libraries and recreation, can be credited to innovations pioneered in women's prisons … • Alexander, Michelle (2012), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, New York. . [154] In this political milieu, the notion of surrendering individual liberties of any kind—even those of criminals—for some abstract conception of "social improvement" was abhorrent to many. Chateau d’If in France is well-known through its use as a setting in the book “The Count of Monte Cristo” written by Alexander Dumas. [1] These periods of prison construction and reform produced major changes in the structure of prison systems and their missions, the responsibilities of federal and state agencies for administering and supervising them, as well as the legal and political status of prisoners themselves. Long term residents teach first-time offenders how to become “better” and more violent second offenders. [323] Occupied Tennessee hired its prisoners out to the United States government, while Georgia freed its inmates as General William Tecumseh Sherman headed for Atlanta with his armies in 1864. [95] Provincial laws in Massachusetts began to prescribe short terms in the workhouse for deterrence throughout the eighteenth century and, by mid-century, the first statutes mandating long-term hard labor in the workhouse as a penal sanction appeared. The Auburn Prison in New York was a model for the prisons that would adopt this system and eventually became known for its own unique take on it. [41] Over two-thirds of those sentenced during sessions of the Old Bailey in 1769 were transported. Sarah: In the early years of the 19th century, New York State officials had a problem. Though prisons were not built with these features in mind during Dr. Rush’s day, many of those features, including the echoing clang of electronically operated doors, seem to describe modern-day prisons. Sanitation. The next day, that prisoner would have to operate the crank again while hungry and exhausted. Prisoners were kept in tiny cells of stale air with a bucket of their own waste in the corner. . [236], Persistent beliefs in inherited criminality and social inferiority also stoked a growing eugenics movement during the Reconstruction Era, which sought to "improve" the human race through controlled breeding and eliminate "poor" or "inferior" tendencies. Astonishingly, reformers from Europe looked to the new nation as a model for building, utilizing and improving their own systems. An inmate had died in a cell, and due to the jammed drum, no one could reach the body for two days. Prisons are over-crowded. [126] But from the outset Eastern State's keepers used corporal punishments to enforce order. [184] Whereas the proportion of the Northern population working on farms dropped in this period from 70 to 40 percent, 80 percent of Southerners were consistently engaged in farm-related work. "[33] The Virginia Company, the corporate entity responsible for settling Jamestown, authorized its colonists to seize Native American children wherever they could "for conversion ... to the knowledge and worship of the true God and their redeemer, Christ Jesus. [102], From the efforts at the Walnut Street Jail and Newgate Prison, two competing systems of imprisonment emerged in the United States by the 1820s. [286], Rural courts met so rarely in the post-war years that prisoners often sat in jails for months while awaiting trial, at the government's expense. The pathbreaking work on American prisons and other institutions in the nineteenth century is David J. Rothman, The Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic (Boston, 1971), which highlights the social control objectives of Jacksonian reformers intent on maintaining order in an increasingly anonymous and unruly society. [156] Disagreements over republican principles—i.e., the role of the state in social governance—became the focus of a persistent debate about the necessity of southern penitentiaries in the decades between independence and the Civil War. [332], The lease system was useful for capitalists who wanted to make money quickly: Labor costs were fixed and low, and labor uncertainty was reduced to the vanishing point. “Junk” referred to old ropes coated in waterproof tar that could be teased out into bunches of fiber. [103], By 1800, eleven of the then-sixteen United States—i.e., Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Vermont, Maryland, New Hampshire, Georgia, and Virginia—had in place some form of penal incarceration. [119] Proponents boasted that a Pennsylvania inmate was "perfectly secluded from the world ... hopelessly separated from ... family, and from all communication with and knowledge of them for the whole term of imprisonment. [307] Southerners had always tended to circumscribe the sphere of written, institutionalized law, Ayers argues, and once they began to associate it with outside oppression from the federal government, they saw little reason to respect it at all. If the debtor was lucky enough to pay back their debts, they would still have to pay off the jailer’s fees. [166] Their motives in doing so appear mixed. Cities that had never had police forces moved quickly to establish them,[271] and whites became far less critical of urban police forces in post-war politics, whereas in the antebellum period they had engendered major political debate. [63] They were also an integral part of the transportation and slavery systems—not only as warehouses for convicts and slaves being put up for auction, but also as a means of disciplining both kinds of servants. [50] But transportation of convicts to England's North American colonies continued until the American Revolution, and many officials in England saw it as a humane necessity in light of the harshness of the penal code and contemporary conditions in English jails. This meant that inmates were incarcerated in cells alone, ate alone, and could only see approved visitors. Bankhead of the Alabama penitentiary observed in the 1870s: "[O]ur system is a better training school for criminals than any of the dens of iniquity that exist in our large cities. Anderson. [19] Their ideas about inmate classification and solitary confinement match another undercurrent of penal innovation in the United States that persisted into the Progressive Era. [287] Urban and rural counties moved the locus of criminal punishment from municipalities and towns to the county and began to change the economics of punishment from a heavy expense to a source of public "revenue"—at least in terms of infrastructure improvements. [28], According to social and legal historian Adam J. Hirsch, the rationalists had only a secondary impact on United States penal practices. Although the prison maintained the high wall method, it added new modern technology such as surveillance and electronically monitored perimeters, and changed the way prisons are operated. [266] Widespread poverty at the end of the nineteenth century unraveled the South's prior race-based social fabric. [265], The Civil War brought overwhelming change to Southern society and its criminal justice system. Inmates are entitled to protection against gang-inspired recruitment, violence, and outright physical harm. Although thieves and burglars constituted fewer than 20 percent of the criminals convicted in Southern courts, they made up about half the South's prison population. The second began after the Civil War and gained momentum during the Progressive Era, bringing a number of new mechanisms—such as parole, probation, and indeterminate sentencing—into the mainstream of American penal practice. Look for trends, try new perspectives, be concerned and curious, test limits, and be wary of organized crime variation. Rotary jails were the strange and complicated answer to prisoner isolation and limited resources, but another rotating device would be used to provide never-ending, monotonous work for inmates under the silent system. Their only state prison – named Newgate, most likely after the famous prison in London, was overcrowded. The primary failure of Reconstruction Era penitentiaries, according to historian David Rothman, was administrative. [113] This solution ultimately took the shape of the penitentiary. Despite its innocuous description, it was a truly soul-crushing monstrosity designed to exhaust inmates mentally and physically. [143], Officials also began implementing a classification system at Auburn in the wake of the riots, dividing inmates into three groups: (1) the worst, who were placed on constant solitary lockdown; (2) middling offenders, who were kept in solitary and worked in groups when well-behaved; and (3) the "least guilty and depraved," who were permitted to sleep in solitary and work in groups. The list includes names such as H. H. Holmes, Lucky Luciano, Billy the Kid, Jesse James and Ned Kelly. Prisoners quickly learned that fingers made the task go fastest but left them with tar-stained fingers and open, dirty sores. [310] But with the withdrawal of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1868 and continuing political violence from whites, blacks ultimately lost this struggle, according to historian Edward L. [10] In the decades that followed, "houses of correction" or "workhouses" like the Bridewell became a fixture of towns across England—a change made permanent when Parliament began requiring every county in the realm to build a workhouse in 1576. [358] But the emerging nature of Southern industry and labor groups—which tended to be smaller and more concentrated—made for a situation in which a small number of convicts could affect entire industries.[358]. [154], But criminal incarceration appealed to others in the South. [34] At the same time, the legal definition of "vagrancy" was greatly expanded. [87] As the eighteenth century matured, and a social distance between the criminal and the community became more manifest, mutual antipathy (rather than community compassion and offender penitence) became more common at public executions and other punishments. [255], The rise and decline of the Elmira Reformatory in New York during the latter part of the nineteenth century represents the most ambitious attempt in the Reconstruction Era to fulfill the goals set by the National Congress in the Declaration of Principles. According to historians Adam J. Hirsch and David Rothman, the reform of this period was shaped less by intellectual movements in England than by a general clamor for action in a time of population growth and increasing social mobility, which prompted a critical reappraisal and revision of penal corrective techniques. [100] Massachusetts judges wielded this new-found discretion in various ways for twenty years, before fines, incarceration, or the death penalty became the sole available sanctions under the state's penal code. [102] New York began implementing solitary living quarters at New York City's Newgate Prison in 1796. Prison Life—1865 to 1900. Originally brought in to help with overcrowding, hulks actually ended up making the problem worse. [267] By the end of Reconstruction, a new configuration of crime and punishment had emerged in the South: a hybrid, racialized form of incarceration at hard labor, with convicts leased to private businesses, that endured well into the twentieth century. . Jails were among the earliest public structures built in colonial British North America. One inmate, Willie Brown, died by eating glass while trying to get a medical transfer to anywhere else. [90] A "climate change" in post-Revolutionary politics, in the words of historian Adam J. Hirsch, made colonial legislatures open to legal change of all sorts after the Revolution, as they retooled their constitutions and criminal codes to reflect their separation from England. With the development of new material and ideas, prisons changed physically to accommodate the rising population. According to historian Adam J. Hirsch, eighteenth-century rationalist criminology "rejected scripture in favor of human logic and reason as the only valid guide to constructing social institutions. [117], The Pennsylvania system, first implemented in the early 1830s at that state's Eastern State Penitentiary outskirts of Philadelphia and Western State Penitentiary at Pittsburgh, was designed to maintain the complete separation of inmates at all times. Those accused of property crime—white or black—stood the greatest chance of conviction in post-war Southern courts. Some prison administrations felt that having inmates occupy the same space to work the treadmill or pick oakum was far too much mingling. The American prisons resembled work houses but strived to offer humane living conditions with an eye toward reforming offenders. [180] They also earned money by harnessing convict labor to produce simple goods that were in steady demand, like slave shoes, wagons, pails, and bricks. [68] The colonial jail's design resembled an ordinary domestic residence,[69] and inmates essentially rented their bed and paid the jailer for necessities. [78] The emergence of cities created a kind of community very different from the pre-revolutionary model. [364], Faced with this acute shortage of manpower, authorities at the penal farms relied upon armed inmates, known as "trusties" or "riders," to guard the convicts while they worked[361] Under the trusties' control prisoners worked ten to fourteen hours per day (depending on the time of year), six days per week. Citation: State of New Jersey Commission of investigation Gangland Behind Bars May 2009 Fines, whippings, the stocks, the pillory, the public cage, banishment, capital punishment at the gallows, penal servitude in private homes—all of these punishments came before imprisonment in British colonial America. [199] In this environment, where racial control was more difficult to enforce, Southern whites were constantly on guard against black criminality. Once punishment, be it corporal or capital, was carried out, the prisoner was no longer held. [267] Nor was the white population, stricken by poverty and resentment, as united in its racial policing as it was during the antebellum period. David J. Rothman suggests that it was the freedom of our independence that helped along the reformation of the law. [165], Ultimately, the penitentiary's supporters prevailed in the South, as in the North. [315] An 1885 national survey reported that 138 institutions employed over 53,000 inmates in industries, who produced goods valued at $28.8 million. These were bigger prisons run by the central government in London. Women in Nineteenth-Century America by Dr. Graham Warder, Keene State College . Perhaps it is time to take a completely different approach. [282][283] For example, 384 of North Carolina's 455 prisoners in 1874 were black, and in 1878 the proportion had increased slightly to 846 of 952. [12], During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, several programs experimented with sentencing various petty criminals to the workhouse. [178], As in the North, the costs of imprisonment preoccupied Southern authorities, although it appears that Southerners devoted more concern to this problem than their Northern counterparts. [42] The list of "serious crimes" warranting transportation continued to expand throughout the eighteenth century, as it had during the seventeenth. During this decade in which the British had to keep their prisoners to themselves, the public began to take notice of the condition of the prison system. Changed in the North in one key way—its violence help to explain why support for the was... Fingers and open, dirty sores modern times and 10 brutal accounts of Torture in Old Insane.. 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