Eastern State Penitentiary Costs, 1821 to 1844

face of a prisoner

Construction and operating costs of the Eastern State Penitentiary near Philadelphia. Cost per cell compared to other early U.S. prisons.

Eastern State Penitentiary near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, which began operating in 1821, pioneered the separate system of suppressing prisoners’ communication. The separate system ideally required prisoners to be housed in individual cells. Moreover, prisoners were meant to eat, work, and exercise alone, without having any communication with other prisoners. Those requirements added cost to prison facilities. Construction and operating costs for the Eastern State Penitentiary, on a per cell basis, were much higher than other prisons of the time. Over time, budgetary pressure caused Eastern State Penitentiary to economize by housing more than one prisoner per cell.

Dataset sheets:

  • Eastern State costs: construction and operating costs by cost categories and years
  • comparative cost data: construction costs compared on a per cell basis across Eastern State Penitentiary and other early U.S. prisons

Related datasets:

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