Introduction to prisons• In early years Britain had little need, if any, for prisons. The normal sentence for those found guilty was death while those found innocent were simply set free. Dungeons were certainly used as prisons for ordinary soldiers in the middle ages.• As an alternative to death and execution in 1615, Thomas Mores Utopia suggested a proposal for imprisonment as punishment. The suggestion was that thieves be locked away and reduced in status as slaves for a number of years, but as state prisons at the time did not exist there was no place to send them.The prison population grew by seventy per cent to 77,000 between 1993and 2005.
The New Prison• The new prison was founded with £2000 paid by Bishop Barrington Shute of Durham who wanted to be rid of the existing gaol which he felt was a traffic hazard.• In 1808 Sir George Wood had commented on the poor state of the House of Correction and County Gaol and so moves were made to build a new prison to replace these.• The new prison had 600 cells and was able to replace both the old House of Correction and the County Gaol.• Some prisoners have claimed that the new prison is haunted - saying they have seen something in a cell where one inmate was allegedly stabbed to death by another.The new prison needed new rules which reflected the changes in attitude to punishmentand criminals. After 1819 male and female prisoners were kept apart, as were debtorsand felons. Rules forbade drinking, bad language, disobedience, quarrelling andindecency. All prisoners were to be put to work with some being paid for their work whenthey were discharged. The prisoners were classified and separated according to thecrimes they had committed and work was expected to help in reforming the characterof these people. Short term offenders had to take away rubbish, level ground, extendgardens whilst longer term prisoners had to pick oakum, work in the workshops etc.Considerable efforts were made to find suitable work for every prisoner but bad weathersometimes made this difficult.
Punishments in prisonThe prison operated a series of punishments for variousmisdemeanours. This included fettering in irons, flogging, birching, thetreadmill and close confinement. The treadmill was introduced as apunishment when a prisoner had severely broken the prison rules.They were expected to turn the treadmill by walking on it. Each turnwas counted and 500 turns was considered a good days effort.However, as the prisoner became accustomed to the treadmill itbecame easier for the prisoner to turn so a special screw wasintroduced which the prison turnkeys could use to adjust the pressureand make it more difficult to turn. This is why prison officers are stillknown to this day as screws.
Newgate Prisons• Back in the 1800’s crime was treated more harshly and most people were accused and just thrown in cells. There was a variety of types of cells, ranging from the pits to normal cells, there was also inequality between men and women, as women cells had beds in them (even though there were about 6 woman allocated to one cell) and were just better than what the males got. If the males wanted to be transferred to a better cell they would have to pay, however the cell they would have gotten would have been packed it 12 other people who slept and did their business. This wouldn’t have been much better as there was a much higher rate of illness. The people that didn’t pay were automatically thrown into the pits. Once the prisoners were convicted of a crime, most were sentenced to death, in specific the gallows, on the way to gallows the carriage taking the prisoner would stop and every pub and the landlord would give them a free pint, this is so that the prisoner would be totally drunk before he was killed and so that he wouldn’t notice. However at the last pub, the prisoner was taken through an underground passage to the gallows to avoid the public.
Types of cells.The pits. This is one of the worst cells to be put in, there was no light, itwas underground and as many people couldn’t afford to be put in bettercells this cell would be more likely to be packed with more people.Woman cells. These cells had beds and a chamber pot. Outside this cellwas a small room where they could roam about during the day time, andusually there would be 6 women allocated to one room.Another type of cell would have been a dark room with a bench, peoplewould have been shackled up and left in there until there time with thejury would have come.In one certain prison, all the cells went underground and at the lowestlevel there was a chapel where the prisoners could have there last prayer.
This type of cell would have had one person allocated to one of the slots. They would have to stay there during the day. And the conditions would have been really bad.This is the last pub the criminal wouldhave seen before the gallows. The pictureabove is also inside this building.This would have been the last pub fromNewgate Prison. The chapel is on the lowest level of the prisons and would have been the last place for the criminals to pray.
These are pictures of recent/today’s prisons. As you can see, there have beenvarious changes. The major change would be the living conditions; now, thecriminals would be living in a clean environment and would have extrafacilities such as a TV for entertainment and more comfortable beds. In the oldcells, they would have to sleep on the floor or beds with no mattresses or intheir own excrete.