A History of Bridewell Prison, 1553-1700
London’s Bridewell Prison was the location of many “firsts” in penology. For the first time in world history, imprisonment at hard labor was substituted for corporal or capital punishment, which is the very definition of a penitentiary. In this connection, Bridewell should be regarded as the very first step in the development of the modern penitentiary. Indeed, its influence on the penitentiary system in America was enormous. Moreover, Bridewell still provides lessons in our own time as a reminder of how far we have not come relative to crime and punishment. Currently, in the United States, we are using the penal system to “warehouse” the poor, an idea that is not without historical precedent and predictable outcomes. Although Bridewell was a revolutionary experiment in penal reform, it ultimately failed to deliver what its proponents promised. Among some of the “firsts” to be found at Bridewell were a system of classification and treatment; trade training and education for all inmates; full-time paid prison staff (wardens, work supervisors, administrators, teachers, chaplains, and a prison doctor); trade training and education for young offenders (apprenticeship programs); and cell and solitary confinement.
“ ... It is precisely because the image of the Bridewell Prison is familiar to us that Dr. Hinkle’s account raises unsettling questions. How far, really, have we come in the 450 years since London’s best civic minds devised a program combining punishment and correction? No farther than we might expect, perhaps, given how quickly the Bridewell experience demonstrated the predominance of values of punishment over values of restoration and renewal ... The image of Bridewell in this work does not tell us what to do in corrections. It does, however, explain that it is time for a change.” – (from the Foreword) Malcolm C. Young, Executive Director, The John Howard Association of Illinois
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ISBN10: 0-7734-5786-0 ISBN13: 978-0-7734-5786-7