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Until the seventeenth century, prisoners were imprisoned mainly for debt. In those days, at least in Britain, the idea of ​​imprisonment had not yet occurred to anyone as a particularly clever idea because the usual sentence for those guilty of crimes was death. Then, in 1615, Thomas More’s “Utopia” suggested an alternative prison proposal.

At the time, about half of the prisons were privately owned and rented out to subcontractors. Newgate Prison in London, for example, dating from 1130, was a trading company run by a “warden.”

In 1682, the Duke of York, who would later become James II of England, turned over a large portion of his American property to William Penn. This land included present-day Pennsylvania. Upon hearing the news, Penn set sail for America and settlers swore their allegiance to him as their new owner after he traveled upriver and founded the province of Pennsylvania. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed.

By this time, Philadelphia had become the epicenter of prison reform around the world. Penn was a Quaker and had been imprisoned in England for his beliefs, so he abolished the Duke of York’s “penal code” and repealed the death penalty for all crimes except murder, and instead punished people with imprisonment. and forced labor.

However, the Quakers were not known for their progressive liberalism, and the law also required severe penalties for sexual offenses such as “desecrating the marriage bed,” whatever one thinks that means. This was punishable by whipping plus a one-year sentence for the first offense, then life in prison for the second.

Anyway, the first American penitentiary, which consisted only of cell blocks, was built under the name of Walnut Street Jail (by the way, the use of the word “penitentiary” comes from the Pennsylvania Quakers and their belief in self-examination and penance as a way to salvation). Nor by scrolling. Construction of the jail was completed in the late 18th century, transforming it into the first American penitentiary.

At that time, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and others organized a movement to reform the harsh penal code. The new law replaced public work with the previous severe penalties. The backlash against the public display of convicts on the streets and the “shameful conditions” in the Walnut Street jail led to the formation of the Philadelphia Society. The following year, he presented the state legislature with an account of his investigations into prison conditions and recommended solitary confinement and forced labor as a “remedy” and a reform strategy.

But it was Michel Foucault who wrote about the eighteenth century as the time that brought with it techniques of discipline and examination, rather as the Middle Ages thought of judicial investigation. This, he said, was an authoritarian device for the “search for truth”, where sovereign powers assumed the right to establish these so-called “truths” to better administer “justice” through a series of regulatory techniques.

It was not humanism that changed things, it was the call of the eighteenth century reformers not to take revenge, and as such, during this period, crimes seemed to lose their violence while punishments lost some of their intensity.

By then, society had gone from one that punished the “criminality of blood” to the “criminality of fraud,” which formed a completely new and complex mechanism that gave a greater “moral value” to property. Therefore, the authorities instituted much stricter surveillance methods, a stricter division of the population, and more efficient techniques for locating and obtaining information. In the 21st century, this has accelerated to alarming proportions.

Indeed, in his apparent justification for “rectifying” the disciplinary mechanisms that characterize the prison, he was addressing the problem of understanding the criminal mind behind the criminal act and administering a corrective sanction; a therapy to normalize, measure, evaluate, diagnose, cure and transform individuals.

In those days in France, the Ministry of the Colonies is quoted as saying: “Beyond this distribution of roles there is a theoretical disavowal: do not imagine that the sentences that we judge are activated by a desire to punish; they are destined to correct, claim, heal … “Society and prison now differ only in degree, where self-discipline is the accepted norm, even when applied to the slightest transgressions.

At Alcatraz, the inmates ended up on the Rock because they refused to follow the rules established for them in other federal penitentiaries. After getting off the boat, the prisoners were greeted by a team of correctional officers who explained the strict prison regulations to them. For example, in the early years, inmates were only allowed to talk to each other during weekend recreation time.

A set of Institution Regulations was issued for inmates who had to keep him in their cells at all times, which included the recommendation for clemency that required them to show good conduct and a good work history better than average for several years in the institution and that loitering, loitering, visiting, or an unauthorized absence from work will result in disciplinary action and may result in the inmate’s loss of work and retention or loss of good time.

Foucault also argued that a “prison continuum” runs through modern society, from the maximum security prison, through safe accommodation, probation, social workers, police, and teachers, to our daily work and home lives. All are connected by the supervision, vigilance, application of norms of acceptable behavior of some humans by others.

It must be said that society is increasingly controlled but in reality it is a question of results. The outcomes of the prison system rarely coincide with the purpose and purpose of correctional prisons like Alcatraz, America’s premier maximum security prison and final stop for the nation’s most incorrigible inmates, and incarceration itself as a means of ” improve the individual “has never been achieved.

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