What two prison systems vied for the attention of penal reformers during the first half of the 19th century?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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During the period of reforms in the antebellum era of the United States, there were two systems that were proposed for prisons.  These two systems were called the Pennsylvania System and the Auburn System.  While they were competing with one another, they were not completely different from one another.  They had both similarities and differences.

The major similarity between the two was that they tried to enforce a strict policy in which prisoners would not interact with one another.  The Pennsylvania System was sometimes called the “Separate System” because it tried to prevent interaction through solitary confinement.  The Auburn System did not keep prisoners separate (except for at night) but it did forbid talking and even exchanging glances.  Both systems though that this would help to rehabilitate the prisoners. 

The major difference between the two is that the Pennsylvania System relied on solitary confinement while the Auburn system was one in which prisoners were expected to work all day.  Prisoners in the Auburn system were not kept separate.  Instead, they worked and ate together, albeit in silence.

Thus, the two systems were very similar, but were competing with one another nonetheless.

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