Plans and Illustrations of Prisons and Reformatories

Hastings H. Hart

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Prison building has been for the most part suspended during the past seven years. State prisons have been under construction at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania; Sing Sing, New York; Statesville, near Joliet, Illinois; and Montgomery, Alabama. Westchester County, New York, has built and Detroit, Michigan, has begun a prison for short term misdemeanants. New York City and the District of Columbia have partially completed reformatories for young men. New reformatories for women have been established in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Most of them have adopted cottage plans similar to those of industrial schools for delinquent girls. All of them are in process of development. Most of them have erected from one to three new buildings and are making use of old farmhouses as temporary cottages.<br><br>Comparatively few new county jails have been built. Probably the most notable one built in the past seven years is the Hamilton County Jail in Cincinnati, which is reported as a modern and model jail, located in the top of the Court House, like the jails in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Oakland, California, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Plans for a new county jail system at Chicago for Cook County are being worked out by a local committee which has retained Dr. George W. Kirchwey, of New York, as expert adviser.<br><br>From the newer prisons, a selection of note worthy plans and illustrations is presented herewith. They have been selected with special reference to unusual or improved features, such as modern cell houses, clinical laboratories, improved lighting, and sanitation. The plans selected include state prisons in New York and Alabama and tentative plans for a state prison and a state reformatory; plans for single buildings at two reformatories for women; plans for cottages at two reformatories for boys, and tentative plans for a metropolitan jail designed by the writer with special reference to the needs of Chicago.<br><br>It was desired to include the plans of the projected prisons of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, but it was found impracticable. Elaborate plans were made and published some years ago for a new Ohio Penitentiary, but building has not commenced and it is understood that the plans will be abandoned or greatly modified. The new state penitentiary at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, which is to supersede both the Eastern and Western Penitentiaries and to provide for 4,000 to 5,000 prisoners on a farm of over 5,000 acres, was begun ten years ago; but its development was hindered by the war, and thus far temporary provision has been made for about 500 prisoners. Construction is now proceeding rapidly. The ultimate plans are still in process of development.<br><br>The state of Illinois is erecting a great penitentiary, designed by Zimmerman, Saxe and Zimmerman, Architects, about six miles from the old prison site. It is intended to accommodate about 2,000 prisoners. Two cell buildings have been erected, each containing 248 cells. The cells are 6½ feet wide, 10 feet 8 inches long and 8 feet high, and are intended to house but one prisoner.<br><br>The cell houses are circular, resembling a gas tank with a conical roof. They are a practical execution of the "Panopticon" proposed by Jeremy Bentham in the year 1787, a plan of which will be found in Punishment and Reformation, by Dr. Frederick Howard Wines, page 144. The interior wall of each cell is of glass and a central tower enables the guard to keep every prisoner under observation every moment, day and night. Each cell is well lighted by an exterior window. An elaborate system of ventilation was installed, but on a recent visit the writer discovered that the cell houses ventilate themselves through the outer windows and the skylight, and the fans were not in use. It is doubtful whether a system of perpetual espionage will find favor with prison administrators, but the experiment is an interesting one.<br><br>Special efforts were made to obtain the plans of the new Illinois Penitentiary for this publication, but were unsuccessful.

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