Has the Prison a Future?
It is a matter of pride to every American that the new penitentiary system has been established and successfully practiced in this country. That community which… persevered in this novel experiment, until success has crowned its perseverance, must occupy an elevated place in the scale of political or social civilization. Francis Lieber (quoted in de Beaumont and de Tocqueville 1833, p. 6)
The falls of Niagara and your penitentiary are two objects I might almost say I most wish to see in America. Charles Dickens (1842, quoted in Shearer and Teeters 1957, p. 114)
The days of imprisonment as a method of mass treatment of lawbreakers are largely over. What remains of it will have to employ much more scientific methods of selection and treatment in order to survive. Hermann Mannheim (1942, p. 222)
It is confidently predicted that, before the end of this century, prison in [its current] form will become extinct, though the word may live on. Norval Morris (1965, p. 268)
Prisons range in security from double-barred steel cages within high walled, electronically monitored perimeters to rooms in unlocked buildings in unfenced fields. They range in pain from windowless rooms of close-confined, sensory-deprived isolation to work camps of no physical adversity whatever…. [But it] would be an error to assume that most of these late-twentieth-century mutations of the prison tend toward leniency and comfort. The most common prisons are the overcrowded prisons proximate to the big cities of America; they have become places of deadening routine punctuated by bursts of fear and violence. Norval Morris (1995, p. 227)
There in five quotations is the history of the prison. It began 200 years ago as a humanitarian reform, a substitute for capital and corporal punishment and banishment. It was celebrated. By the middle of the twentieth