By Lynn Parramore, New Deal 2.0
Posted on January 4, 2011, Printed on January 6, 2011
The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. ~Fyodor Dostoevsky
In the earliest days of our Republic, a group of well-meaning Philadelphia Quakers set out to reform the prison system. The idea was to remove convicts from the mayhem and corruption of overcrowded jails to solitary cells where sinners would return to mental and spiritual health through reflection. In the Walnut Street Jail, no windows would distract the prisoners with street life; no conversation would disturb their penitence. Alone with God, they would be rehabilitated.