Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Eastern State Penitentiary


I like being the intentional tourist. We have been making a concerted effort to be text book tourists lately. In our on going effort, we visited Philadelphia this pasty weekend.


We toured Eastern State Penitentiary. I am going to let the photos do most of the talking. I will just say this was the first penitentiary in America. It became a model for the penal system all over the world. The entire notion of repaying your debt to society was founded here. It was built to be a place of penitence. The system evolved over the years.


In the early days you arrived at the front gate and a hood was put over your head. From that moment, until your release, you never saw another person.  You never even saw the face of your captors. The only voice you heard was the voice of your over seer telling you to put on your hood to be moved. You spent your entire sentence completely alone. Time was often spent making handy crafts that were sold outside the prison such as furniture, clothing, and shoes. For 23 hours you were in that cell, four feet of solid stone between you and the next cell. One hour a day they let you out through a door in the rear. You entered an outdoor enclosure the same size as the cell, it just did not have a roof on it. You still could see no one, or hear any one from there. It was just you and the good Lord above who you were expected to be making  amends with. You could be sent here for any crime. You might also be sent here for a simple debt. Many men and women came out shattered and completely unable to deal with reintegrating. 
The place was shut down in 1971.





































1 comment:

Denman Schmid said...

Nice post. I've want to visit there one of these days. What a terrible place, but it would be cool and likely moving to see it.

I have a lot of roots on my dad's side in Philly. When I was young I lived my first few years in Ardmore, out on the "Main Line" west of town.

Dennie