History of Eastern State Penitentiary

I think that a prisoner in the Eastern State Penitentiary has the dullest daily routine that any human could ever have. Picture a prisoner living behind a cell with a heavy dungeon-door and thick walls. Literally, speaking, the daily routine revolves around the cell. As…notes, a prisoner “is led to the cell from which he never again comes forth, until his whole term of imprisonment has expired” (Dickens, n. d, pg. 13).

A prisoner typically wakes up, takes a bath and turns the bed up and against his cell wall to create space for working on it. The works include personal interests ranging from painting to manufacturing a Dutch clock. He receives food through the grated iron door in the cell and at the end of the day lies on the bed in despair. He moans, and tries to listen to identify if a cell similar to the one he is in exists besides him. He wonders how the person in the next cell, if exists, would be doing, walking, dressed and his emotional status until sleep takes him away.

I find that I have difficulty describing a daily routine of a prisoner in Eastern State Penitentiary because it literally does not exist. The prisoners are in confinement, thus restricted to have a typical life. They simply live in misery. I think that this could be attributed to the contradicting effects of the prison structure that deviates from the intended outcomes. As Eastern State Penitentiary (2014) notes, the prison was simply meant to facilitate a shift from punishing offenders to rehabilitating them through change and spiritual reflection. The proponents of the prison believed that solitary would provoke criminals to think about their behavior and unacceptable crimes, thus driving them towards penitence.

Each prisoner was to have his own cell with running water, a skylight, central heat system and a flush toilet to facilitate penitence at a time that the U.S. president lacked running water and a central heating system at the White House.

Nonetheless, I think that the resulting structure and its execution did not align to the original intent. Dickens indicates that even though the idea of the prison was human, kind and meant to reform the prison system, the manner in which it was designed and executed is not appropriate. The miseries that the prisoners get from confinement are worse than physical torture. It is a dangerous punishment, which the prisoners suffer silently because the typical eye cannot see their miseries. I tend to agree on Dickens based on the encounters he has with the prisons. Dickens describes the prison as hopeless solitary confinement with wrong and cruel effects and there are justifiable reasons for that. Upon entry, prisoners lose their identity as cell numbers become their identity. Some prisoners have to have illusions of having a wife or manufacturing Dutch watches, indication of dreams lost inside the cells. More disheartening is that people with crimes deserving less punishment, such as receiving stolen goods are driven to confinement.

The prisoners cannot receive outside visitors, letters from home, books or contact the outside world in any way. I believe that the solitary confinement can only be summed up in Dickens way, “mental anguish…so acute and so tremendous, that all imagination of it must fall far short of the reality” (Dickens, n. d, pg. 13).

In entirety, I would say that attempting to describe the daily routine at the prison is difficult. The hopeless solitary confinement psychologically affects prisoners and robs them off a normal life in which they would have a daily routing. They just live in their despair without the rehabilitation promised by the original intent of the prison.


Dickens, C. (n. d). _Philadelphia, and its solitary prison_. Retrieved from https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/dickens/charles/d54an/chapter7.htm

Eastern State Penitentiary. (2014). _Short history of Eastern State Penitentiary._ Retrieved from http://www.easternstate.o r g/learn/research-library/history