The Nature of the Modern American Prison System Essays

The Nature of the Modern American Prison System Essays

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The nature of the modern American prison system is explored, especially with regard to the evolution of safety measures and the birth of prison privatization. Covered are Bentham's revolutionary Panopticon concept, as well as the driving forces behind prison labor practices and prisoner rights. Factors such as investor confidence, taxation, and public policy are all examined to determine how they influence the state of the prison system (both public and private). The rights of inmates in terms of overcrowding, medical care, and privacy are all considered and weighed against the greater good. Bentham's utilitarian approach to the prison system is extrapolated herein to determine whether or not the measures currently in place truly do deliver the greatest good. Both mistakes and pitfalls within the evolution of the prison system are explored in order to determine where it stands today, and where it may end up in the future.

The Evolution of the U.S. Prison Industry
The First Era of Prison
The birthplace of the modern American prison is also the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. According to Woodham (2008), the first American penitentiary was conceived and created in 1787. The Eastern State Penitentiary was opened to prevent the egregious conditions occurring at the Walnut Street jail from continuing. The conditions at the jail included thefts, rapes, and a number of other crimes that occurred because men, women, and children were all being housed together in the same space. These conditions prompted the formation of Eastern State Penitentiary, many of the ideas for which came from Benjamin Rush and Benjamin Franklin. The idea was so successful that the prison was operational for nearly 150 years. The prison system in ge...

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...mates to other prisons in order to avoid violence. Since then, these practices have been utilized to curb the violence and control of prison gangs, and often this is only a stop gap measure. Despite the lessons they had learned, Marion prison continued to allow prisoners who had killed other prisoners to mix with the general population.
The future of the prison system would seem to be in the hands of private corporations and their investors. The only way to trump the rights of investors is to expand the rights of prisoners at a legislative level. An expansion of rights conducted in this manner would need to include an increase in taxation, and this does not appear to be something that would be popular among voters. Furthermore, the fate of both prisons and their inhabitants are left up to voters...who need to decide whether or not they want to foot the bill.

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