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Eastern State Penitentiary - Quilt essay

Muni's picture

Eastern State Penitentiary was an innovative attempt at changing the very hearts of prisoners, but which failed to take into account the role of kindness. 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. 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. Eastern state penitentiary was for the most part a failure: prisoners found ways to communicate and rebel, and often played or refused the help of their reformers. I am disappointed by the loss of the original mission statement (now they lost the part about isolation), but proud of how it affected other prisons throughout the world. 

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. The prison was a site of mental torture, inconceivably harsh to anyone who had not seen it with his own eyes. “The prison is horrible. I saw the hopelessness in the eyes of the prisoners.” ESP was a place you wouldn’t want to end up in lest you enjoyed the company of your own criminal soul and the judging eye of god. It is a place where prisoners try to fight against isolation, which is meant by the builders in order to make the inmates contemplate and reflect towards reformation.

 Eastern State may have been founded on a good idea- not writing prisoners off as worthless unchangeable criminals but trying to help them be better people- but the methods did not work and were inhumane. The morals of Eastern State are questionable, and the role of success of reforming prisoners (rather than simply punishing them) is disappointingly low for how many people were forced to stay there.