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Historical Evolution of Punishment - Essay Example

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Middlebury College
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The American criminal justice system has evolved significantly since the nations colonial times. Additionally, the occurrence can be supported by the constant change in models of punishment administered by the criminal justice system over the past two century. Moreover, during the colonial times, lawbreakers in the United States were subjected to the laws and regulations of the British colony. Additionally, on numerous occasions, the colonial laws and subsequent punishment were not justified and fair at all times. This is a discussion of Americas historical evolution of punishment and houses of corrections, comparison of past and current correction models and an analysis of the intended outcomes of American jails and prisons.

Historical Evolution of Punishment

Criminal punishment through imprisonment became widespread in the United States a few years before the American Revolution. Nevertheless, three other core periods marked the major changes in models of punishment that were employed in the United States. Additionally, the first period was the Jacksonian Era that occurred between 1829 to 1837 CITATION How14 \l 1033 (Abadinsky, 2014). Moreover, during this period, imprisonment, as well as rehabilitation labor, became the primary models of punishment in the nation. Second, the Progressive Era that occurred between 1890 and 1920 also significantly transformed the various models of corrections that were employed in the United States CITATION Fai09 \l 1033 (Jaycox, 2009).

Furthermore, during this period, the criminal justice systems in the United States adopted new models of punishment, which included the use of parole, probation, as well as indeterminate sentencing. Additionally, the three forms of correction were employed alongside incarceration and rehabilitation labor. Lastly, the final period that led to the dev elopement of the models of punishment began in the early 1970s to date. Additional, during this period, a series of policies and rights that govern the punishment for the law offenders were introduced both at state as well as federal levels. For instance, Parole Guidelines were introduced in the 1970s by the U.S. Parole Board in Minnesota, Oregon, which set the framework of determining the duration of time served by convicts under parole CITATION Nat18 \l 1033 (National Academy of Sciences, 2018).

United States Houses of Corrections

In the enlightenment age that took place around the 18th century, emphasis on promoting the functions of the houses of correction in the United States was adopted. Additionally, unlike the houses of correction that were created in England after the 1601s Elizabethan Poor Law, the houses of correction in America were enacted through the use of knowledge adopted from England literature publications CITATION Gan14 \l 1033 (Tambo, 2014). Also, examples of the publications used included journals, encyclopedias as well as other written publications. Consequently, the acquired knowledge led to the abolishment of general punishment and in its place, the punishment was issued based on the nature or severity of the crime committed. Also, instead of focusing on the inflicting of pain on the offender, the emphasis was laid on providing offenders with opportunities for rehabilitation. Furthermore, prisoners were also separated based on their gender, age and the nature of offenses committed.

Influence of British Jurisprudence

The ancient British legal and rehabilitation systems had a significant influence on how the correctional systems are in the United States today. For example, the pledging for the abolishment of capital punishment through the Quakers movement was adopted from British. Also, the Quakers movement led to the creation of opportunities for work to inmates while they are still in prison. Also, because of the British jurisprudence, prisoners in Americas prison were separated based on their age, gender, crime committed and the duration of the punishment.

Comparison of the Past and Current Correction Models in the United States

In the 16th century, the models of correction in America were mainly centered on inflicting pain on the offender. Additionally, they were characterized by the use of corporal and capital punishments. Moreover, offenses were not categorized and as such, law offenders could often be severely punished for minor offenses. On the other hand, in the modern models of correction equity in the treatment as well as punishment of offenders were recognized and promoted. Also, in the modern correction systems, criminals were offered a chance to better themselves through rehabilitation practices. Additionally, prisoners are separated based on their age, gender and nature of the crime committed.

Goals and Intended Outcomes of Jails and Prisons

The Louisiana State Penitentiary is the largest male maximum security prison in the state CITATION Lar15 \l 1033 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2015). The main goal of the prison is to offer rehabilitation services to prisoners by empowering them with essential technical skills. Additionally, the examples of the technical skills offered by the penitentiary include farming, inmate education, carpentry, manufacturing, a program for fathers and skills in the media through radio, television, and magazines. Also, the expected outcome of the penitentiary is to enable the prisoners to better themselves after serving their jail sentence. On the other hand, The Attica State Penitentiary in New York aims to a provide a conducive environment where prisoners where they can serve their sentences.

Furthermore, this has been achieved through the creation of a platform where inmates can air their grievances in cases of maltreatment from prison officials. Additionally, the penitentiarys expected outcome is to produce ex-convicts who can be productive members of the society. Lastly, the Tennessee Prison for Women is the largest female prison in the state. Additionally, the goal of the prison is to offer occupational and educational programs to the inmates. Ultimately, the intended outcomes of such programs are to equip the prisoners with knowledge on how to run their own businesses after prison.


In conclusion, the criminal punishment of law offenders has changed significantly since the 18th century. Additionally, this is because today, instead of focusing on the inflicting of pain on the offender, the emphasis of punishment by prisons is laid on providing offenders with opportunities for rehabilitation. Furthermore, prisoners were also separated based on their gender, age and the nature of offenses committed. Also, the houses of correction in America were enacted through the use of knowledge adopted from British literature publications. Furthermore, the British Jurisprudence influenced the reformation of the American corrective system in aspects such as separation of prisoners based on their age, gender, and crime committed. Ultimately, unlike in the past, the modern American correction systems offer criminals a chance to better themselves through rehabilitation practices.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Abadinsky, H. (2014). Law, Courts, and Justice in America: Seventh Edition. Long Grove: Waveland Press.

Jaycox, F. (2009). The Progressive Era. New York: Facts On File, Incorporated.

National Academy of Sciences. (2018). The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (2014). Retrieved from The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine:

Siegel, L. J., & Bartollas, C. (2015). Corrections Today. New York: Cengage Learning.

Tambo, G. (2014). Child Domestic Work in Nigeria: Conditions of Socialisation and Measures of Intervention. New York: Waxmann Verlag.



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