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
Walnut Street Jail
Albert R. Roberts & H. Seth Roberts
The Walnut Street Jail has been called “the cradle” of the penitentiary in the United States because the stages in the jail's development and use mirror developments in penal philosophy, criminal statutes, and prison architecture that occurred during the formative years of the new Republic. The Walnut Street Jail was originally authorized in 1773 to serve as a jail, a workhouse, and a house of corrections for the city of Philadelphia, replacing an older jail. During the Revolutionary War, it served as a military prison, but in 1784 it was returned to its original purposes. In 1786, the Pennsylvania legislature, reflecting Beccaria's recommendations, revised the earlier 1718 English laws, replacing capital punishment for most felonies with sentences of “hard labor, publicly and disgracefully imposed.” In Philadelphia, such sentences were carried out by prisoners in chains who cleaned and repaired the roads. Shortly after the legislation was passed, the Philadelphia Society ...