Keeping Prisoners Silent at Eastern State Penitentiary

face of a prisoner

Techniques for suppressing communication among prisoners at Eastern State Penitentiary:

  • Keeping prisoners in separate cells at all times. Prisoners ate, worked, and listened to religious instruction from their cells.^
  • Requiring prisoners to maintain silence within their individual cells.^
  • Hooding or blindfolding prisoners when they were outside their cells. Upon entry to the prison, a prisoner was hooded (blindfolded) while being led to his or her cell. In theory, the prisoner never left this cell until he or she left the prison. European prisons in which prisoners had common religious services and exercise sessions placed hoods on prisoners during these congregate activities.^

Eastern State Penitentiary not only strove to keep prisoners in silence, but also to prevent them from being able to recognize other persons who had also been prisoners at Eastern State.

Cell block at Eastern State Penitentiary
Cell block at Eastern State Penitentiary

Mutual recognition among prisoners was generally of great concern to prisoner reformers. They strove to reform prisons so that prisoners would be unknown to each other.^ ^ ^

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