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Eastern State Penitentiary

lksmith's picture

ESP was a place where they believed prisoners in solidarity would be able to repent for their sins, so that upon their release they would live more wholesome lives. Eastern state penitentiary is an exemplary pioneer in the pursuit of reforming prisoners through isolation. It should work cause the nature of human beings is kindness, so as long as they stay alone and contemplate, they will eventually find the way to their true heart. The Eastern state not only punish the prisoner, but also save them.

Solitary confinement was not a situation to be accepted without a fight. From the POV of Samuel Bruster, an uncooperative prisoner sentenced to five years of solitary confinement, ESP is a place where if you follow the rules and life a life in solidarity, it will drive you mad, as these conditions are not humane. The solitary confinement was not going to make him a better person, it would just drive him mad. He had to be uncooperative to give himself something to do.

Eastern state failed, an idea too good to come true. The isolation attempts failed, the doctrines were rejected, and there’s no way to know if people repented. Eastern made a marvelous prison, but a terrible half way house or reform center. Isolation is hard to truly come by, though, if achieved, it does encourage contemplation, which, unfortunately, does not necessarily encourage reform. The idea of reforming prisoners rather than just looking them up was revolutionary and enlightening, even though it tended not to work in the practices Eastern State used.