Pennsylvania and Auburn Systems

The television series, Prison Break, can give viewers ideas about life in prison. In the TV series, two inmates occupy a cell. In the morning, they go out of their cells, eat, go to work within the penitentiary and return to their respective cells at night. This kind of setup is known as the Auburn System where the inmates are locked up only in their cells at night, to rest and sleep. Inmates are required to work at daytime. Inmates can also receive visitors—family members and friends. The brainchild of this system hoped and believed that allowing inmates to work will create disciple, develop orderliness, and learn new moral values.

, The old system, the Pennsylvania System is the exact opposite of the Auburn System. The term penitentiary was introduced in this system to mean penitence or atonement for the crime committed. The main ideas of this system are isolation and inactivity. Inmates are isolated from the “real” world so they could have more time to reflect and contemplate about his or her life. This system aims to make the inmates feel sorry for what they had done. Inmates are not allowed to work, inactivity, because doing so will not allow inmates to have time for reflection. One inmate is locked up in each cell, the whole time of isolation.

Today, the Auburn System is the most popular system of rehabilitating inmates. Prison reformers looked at complete isolation from the external world, as promoted by the Pennsylvania System, not normal for humans because humans are naturally social beings. People need to interact with other people. Complete isolation could lead to depression and insanity. The Auburn System, though allowing inmates to be “free,” meaning not locked up in cells most of the time, has programs to make inmates “reflect” about their lives.

This system also allows interaction with other inmates, thus depression and insanity are rare cases. Since they are required to work, inmates learn the value of working “honestly” to earn a living. Inmates are also humans. They deserve to be corrected the normal way. Isolation is the best time to think things over, but being with other humans help inmates practice right living.


  • The Evolution of the New York Prison System [Part I]. Correction Society New York Society. Retrieved June 9, 2008, from http://www. correctionhistory. org/html/chronicl/state/html/nyprisons. html
  • Walnut Street Prison. American Law Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 9, 2008, from http://law. jrank. org/pages/11192/Walnut-Street-Prison. html