The purpose of this research is to examine the concepts of correction and penology as they have been used in human affairs throughout history. Specifically, the intent of this paper is to study the more modern concepts of penology in terms of their historical context.
Most authorities tend to agree that the use of incarceration as a means of punishing criminals is a comparatively new concept. There is no evidence (either in fact or on paper) of institutions that in any way resemble the modern penitentiaries dating back further than the last three centuries. The prison, in fact, was invented with the most humanitarian of intentions. The purpose of incarceration was, originally, to spare wrongdoers from the barbarism of corporal and capital punishment. This concept of the prison as a humanitarian institution might be very difficult to sell to the inmates of a modern penitentiary, but that was the intent of the founders of the first such prisons (Morison, 1965, pp. 400-417).
Prior to that change in societal concepts, most official acts of punishment fell into two categories: corporal and capital. The former was defended by many in that it was cheap and over with very quickly for the criminal. The latter was defended for the same reasons, although victims of this latter category of treatment might not have wanted it to be "over" so quickly. Both provided the general public with a vicious, obscene spectacle, but that was not included in official discussions of the pros and cons of the system, In England, for example, it was very common right up through the end of the 19th Century for public executions to be attended by throngs of cheering spectators. The official reports of the hangings would not report the general bloodlust of those in attendance, but concentrated instead on the notion that the crowds had attended to "see justice done" (Crime and justice in America, 1974, pp. 7-10).
Some of the other systems which did ...