Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952514 | Print ISBN: 9780761927310 | Online ISBN: 9781412952514| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
History of Prisons
The presence of prisons is well documented in the annals of ancient history, mentioned in Greek philosophy, biblical sources, and the laws of Rome. The dominant forms of punishment in early times were execution, exile, fines, and the confiscation of property, and for debt, confinement until payment and debt bondage. The use of imprisonment as the major form of punishment, however, has a more recent history. The difficulty of tracing the emergence of imprisonment itself as a form of punishment lies in the fact that the prison—past and present—has had multiple functions. Prisons have served as places of custody for those to be tried, for those sentenced and awaiting their punishment, as sites for corporal punishment and execution, holding places for debtors, and (infrequently) in earlier times, as places for long-term or lifetime incarceration. For example, Rome's first-century B.C. Mamertine Prison, whose history can be traced back to the third-century ...