Conditions at the Eastern State Penitentiary

1103 Words5 Pages
It is 1787 in the home of Benjamin Franklin where a group of powerful Philadelphians held in high esteem have congregated to deliberate a very pressing issue. They are conversing on the present prison institutions established across America and Europe. It seems that the institutions in both countries are known for their appalling conditions. Benjamin Franklin and his colleagues have set out to change the course of prison history. Their plan is to make a prison system based entirely on reform and enlightenment instead of punishment and misery. They believe prisoners should repent and seek God to help them learn from their mistakes, hence the name penitentiary. After many long years, the men finally reach success and the Eastern State Penitentiary is opened in 1829. America was in a time of reform which was obvious by the opening of such a diverse prison. But no matter how much the Eastern State Penitentiary claims to be averse to torture and harsh conditions, it was after all a prison. From the outside, the Eastern State Penitentiary appeared to be marvelous and sensational, but what went on inside of those massive walls was something entirely different. Life at the Eastern State Penitentiary was unspeakable because of the cell life, disease, and treatment that the inmates had to endure. Aside from the burden of being in prison, the inmates at the Eastern State Penitentiary had yet another downfall, the never-ending terrible conditions of cell life they had to endure. At first, each cell housed only one prisoner and was complete with central heating, running water, a flush toilet, and a skylight (Eastern State). The public marveled on this fact because Andrew Jackson, the President of the United States at the time, was not even a... ... middle of paper ... ... layout of the building or recognition of the various guards (Woodham, Internet). In 1913 the Board of Mental Health stepped in and advised the penitentiary to change their policies regarding punishment (Eerie History). Officials from the Board of Health deemed the methods being used to reform the inmates were not reforming them but doing the exact opposite. These methods were found to result in extreme anger, deep set depression, and were in fact making the inmates that much more likely to commit another crime (Eerie History). Doctors at the Eastern State Penitentiary countered these accusations by making absurd excuses for why the inmates went insane (Eastern State). This fact alone provides the proof that the officials of the penitentiary knew that what they were doing was wrong and therefore came up with faulty excuses to cover their mistreatment of the inmates.
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