Prison - History

History

For most of history, imprisoning has not been a punishment in itself, but rather a way to confine criminals until corporal or capital punishment was administered. There were prisons used for detention in Jerusalem in Old Testament times, and the Bible details the imprisonment of Joseph in Egypt. Dungeons were used to hold prisoners; those who were not killed or left to die there often became galley slaves or faced penal transportations. In other cases debtors were often thrown into debtor's prisons, until they paid their jailers enough money in exchange for a limited degree of freedom.

Only in the 19th century, beginning in Britain, did prisons as known today become commonplace. The modern prison system was born in London, influenced by the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham. Bentham's panopticon introduced the principle of observation and control that underpins the design of the modern prison. The notion of prisoners being incarcerated as part of their punishment and not simply as a holding state until trial or hanging, was at the time revolutionary. This is when prisons had begun to be used as criminal rehabilitation centers.

Britain practiced penal transportation of convicted criminals to penal colonies in the British Empire, in the Americas from the 1610s through the American Revolution in the 1770s and in Australia between 1788 and 1868. France sent criminals to tropical penal colonies including Louisiana in the early 18th century. Penal colonies in French Guiana operated until 1951 (in particular, infamous Île du Diable (Devil's Island)). Katorga prisons were established in the 17th century in Tsardom of Russia in underpopulated areas of Siberia and the Russian Far East that had few towns or food sources. Since these times, Siberia gained its fearful connotation of punishment.

Read more about this topic:  Prison

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