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early prisons

Early prisons were dark, dirty, unhygienic and overcrowded. They locked all types of prisoners together, including men, women and children, plus dangerous criminals, debtors and the clinically insane. During the late 1700s, the British reformer John Howard toured Europe to observe prison conditions. His book, the State of the Prisons in England and Wales influenced the passage of a law that led to the construction of the first British Prisons designed partly for reform. These prisons attempted to make their inmates feel penitent(sorry for doing wrong) and became known as penitentiaries; this is where the origins of the 'theory of rehabilitation' are found.

One form of imprisonment was transportation to a penal colony. During the 1700s, British Convicts were sent to North America to work in cotton fields. This ceased in 1776, when the United States achieved independence. After 1789, convicts were sent to Australia. The first convicts were sent to work as servants. If they misbehaved, the government took them back and put them in chain gangs to break stones and build roads. Eventually purpose built penal colonies were established, such as the one at Port Arthur, Van Diemens Land (now Tasmania), founded in 1833.



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