Naming Penal Systems for Suppressing Prisoners’ Communication

face of a prisoner

Early in the nineteenth century, the Auburn State Prison in New York State and the Eastern State Penitentiary near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, provided competing models of suppressing prisoners’ communication. The former was called the Auburn System, the silent system, or the congregate system. The latter was called the Pennsylvania System, the solitary system, or the separate system. In a letter to the Pennsylvania legislature in 1827, the Philadelphia Society for alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons noted:

Perhaps the term separate rather than solitary confinement, would more appropriately describe the kind of durance which we propose to inflict. Completely to separate one prisoner from another; to take away every possible chance of communication in prison, and mutual recognition, after discharge, is what we greatly desire.^

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