Modern Prisons and Their Predecessors

Learn more about Modern Prisons and Their Predecessors. Over 5.5 million prisoners populate the five largest prison population states.

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Modern Prisons and Their Predecessors

Over 5.5 million prisoners populate the five largest prison population states.
[total prisoners by country][4]
United States: 2,228,424
China: 1,701,344
Russian Federation: 671,700
Brazil: 581,507
India: 411,992

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Per 100,000 citizens
United States: 707
Russian Federation:470
Brazil: 274
China: 172
India: 30

$55 billion is spent by the US government on prisons every year

That’s $183 per man, woman, and child in the US.

Run by local jurisdictions and house those awaiting trial or serving short sentences
Run by state or federal governments for convicts with longer sentences.

Juvenile-detention facilities
Military prisons
Immigration-detention centers
And civil-commitment centers

The US incarcerates more people than any other nation in history

3/100 Americans are part of the justice system.
Total 2,418,352
Federal and state prisons 1,518,559
Territorial prisons 13,576
Local jails 785,556
ICE facilities 9,957
Military facilities 1,651
Jails in tribal territories 2,135
Juvenile facilities (2007) 86,927
4.8 million adults on probation or parole

1/9 state government employees work in corrections.
With 4 prisons in America for every 1 in Russia (the second largest nation in terms of prisons).

“It took more than a century to build California’s first nine prisons and less than a decade to double them” – Angela Y Davis

History of Prisons

The Ancient World

Retribution, fines, or banishment were the price for crimes in the ancient world.

The Iliad:
Why any man will accept the blood price paid
for a brother murdered, a child done to death.
And the murderer lives in his own country —
the man has paid enough, and the injured kinsman
curbs his pride, his smoldering, vengeful spirit,
once he takes the price.

16th-17th century
Prisons held people awaiting trial:
Male, female, debtors, murderers.

Where they would be publicly shamed.
Promoting public deterrence, and “justice.”

By ducking stool
and the stocks

The Bridewell House

Established in 1553 to:
Punish the disorderly poor
And house homeless children

With the goal of instilling habits of the industry through prison labor.
Such as apprenticeships, and hard labor

18th century
Prisoners were shipped to penal colonies
Subjected to hard labor
Or kept in Prison Hulks (prison boats anchored in the Thames)

The Panopticon

Jeremy Bentham introduced the thought that prisons should reinforce in prisoners that they are always being watched.

A dark tower at the center can watch all the prisoners, but they don’t know when they’re being watched.

So they may be returned to society as paranoid citizens.

1799: the Penitentiary Act:
Cells should be built for one inmate per cell and operate on continuous labor systems.



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