The way prisoners were treated across the eras varies widely. "Criminal excesses of the 1920’s to 1930’s hardened the public’s attitude…J. Edgar Hoover…pushed for the now famous (or infamous) super maximum Alcatraz, which soon showed itself to be to expensive to run and maintain” (“Prison,” 2010, p. 1). Alcatraz was a maximum security prison on an island which is infamous for having housed many bitter and hardened criminals. The idea was that it was on an island so no one was able to leave. Alcatraz was one of the toughest prisons from which one could escape because, basically the security system was so complex. Not only that, but somehow, after having escaped from the prison itself, one would have to then get off the island. This required exceptional thought and planning. There were a few, and prisoners did escape from Alcatraz, although it was difficult. To contrast, in the 1800’s, “The convicted were not stripped of their belongings like in today's prisons, but they were searched for weapons or objects that could be used to escape…Many times the prisoners died of starvation and dehydration” (“Prison Life,” 2010, p. 1). In contrast, the prisoners of today are strip-searched and told that all their belongings must be put in a holding bin. These belongings are kept for the person until they are released from jail. Also, prisoners began to be treated better starting in the 20th century, and it increasingly got better from there on out. In the 1800’s. In the 1800's, as stated, prisoners were left to die in many cases, barely being given enough food on which they could sustain themselves.
However, with the advent of psychiatric units and such, prisoners began to be regarded as people which were not lost causes to be put in a room and then allow someone to throw away the key. Rather, a more humanistic perspective was taken on in the mid-20th century in order to make the correctional system that we have today, where people are seen as being able to be rehabilitated instead of simply jailed.
III. Secure Holding and/or Monitoring of Offenders
The main difference in holding facilities between 1800 and 2000 is the fact that
they simply got better. Living conditions improved over time for the inmate as time wore on.
After awhile it was realized that prisoners couldn't just be allowed to languish in dirty, disorganized cells with dirt floors and a bench for a bed. People took note that prisoners were people too, and that they deserved a certain standard of living, however menial.
IV. Alternatives to Incarceration
Alternatives to incarceration involved being put in a chain gang in the early days
(1800's till the 1950's). Although chain gangs can be seen today in the 21st century, usually those are for community service projects and are not as common. However,