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Superstition Will Add to Its Horrors: The Early American Penitentiary and Its Gothic Shadow

NCJ Number
Howard Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 50 Issue: 5 Dated: December 2011 Pages: 465-477
Michael Fiddler
Date Published
December 2011
13 pages
This article examines how the developments in the American penal system since the establishment of the Country have influenced American culture.
In relation to the early American penal experiment, one might imagine an unbroken line of development that takes us from William Penn's code of 1682 through to the monumental structures of the Jacksonian era. These were to be sources of civic pride and would locate the penitentiary as a utopic site (Rothman 1990). However, at each stage of this evolution of imprisonment, there was a Gothic undercurrent. In analyzing these early penitentiaries, their architecture and the popular literature relating to them, one can begin to unpack the ongoing construction of the 'place myth' of the prison within the penal imagination. (Published Abstract)