"The road to hell is paved with good intentions"....
The first prison in the United States was erected in Philadelphia...the "City of Brotherly Love". There were jails in place where "criminals" were held before they were to be publicly humiliated, harassed or punished but it wasn't until the early 1800's that the first prison was officially opened ..... from the Walnut Street Jail with deplorable conditions where thieves, murderers, rapists as well as women and children were housed together awaiting their sentences came the most modern and "reformatory" facility of the time.....the infamous - Eastern State Penitentiary !!!
ESP as it came to be known was supposed to be a model of incarceration, rehabilitation and redemption. It was designed to resemble a castle where you could get in but you would never get out. There is only one entrance to the facility where the walls and ramparts are 30 feet high. It was built about two miles from the city on a hill with the purpose of striking fear into those who might think of committing a crime. It sits today in a gentrified area close to the city center and within walking distance to some of the finest museums in the world.
The prison was designed in a hub and spoke plan. There is a central area (hub) where seven (7) radiating - spoke like cell halls can be continuously monitored. The design was so significant that over 300 prisons around the world would copy with some modifications the fortress.
The cells were cathedral-ish. They had arching ceilings with singular skylights. Each had its own toilet and bed as well as a bible. You see - the point was to isolate the offenders and give them a chance at redemption by biblical study meditation and contemplation.
The penitentiary grew out of the belief that by isolating prisoners - instead of "punishing" them that through personal reflection they would reform themselves. It was called the Pennsylvania System. ....Except isolation didn't work that well.
Prisoners were in put solitary confinement behind latched wooden doors and with little or no interaction with others. The locks were made to be loud when shut...thereby continuously reminding them of their confinement. When out of their cells - they were hooded. When allowed to exercise they were escorted through small narrow doors to the outside....and guarded. It wrecked psychological havoc. It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer and it was hotter than heck the day I walked.
The food was often spoiled and they were beaten. As one prisoner wrote...."take a dog - beat him - starve him - do not let him have any contact with any other animals....then release him and see how he behaves". That was ESP.
There were a number of notorious criminals that found their way through ESP. Al Capone was one of them as was Willie Sutton....who claimed he was the mastermind of the only successful escape from the prison.....(which by the way lasted just a few hours).
Al Capone - is said to have received special treatment from the guards and the warden during his stay before being released and before being re-incarcerated at Alcatraz...although that is up for debate these days....his cell as recreated does look a little different from the others.
This is a fascinating tour. I had worked in Philadelphia for a couple of years and had never heard about ESP. The audio tour is free. It was a surprise. So much history in this area - good, bad and sometimes just ugly.........but if you are interested in such things - this is a must !!!!!! (Not sure I would want to go after dark - pretty creepy) - Take care walk carefully.
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.