Eastern State Penetentiary

Eastern Giant

Imagine being confined within 11 acres of solid steel and stone with no hopes of ever seeing outside of those walls ever again.   For many of the inmates at Eastern State Penitentiary, such as bank robber Willie Sutton and notorious mobster Al Capone, this was a reality.   If those conditions already sound bleak enough, this prison was run through a system of work labor and solitary confinement, which was coined the “Pennsylvania System”.   Although this prison may seem barbaric today, it was incredibly revolutionary back then.   To better understand the nature of this intense structure, it is imperative to delve into the history and architecture of Eastern State, discover why this facility isn't used anymore, and learn what the present state of this prison is.
Eastern State penitentiary was opened on October 25th, 1829, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (coincidentally the same year that Robert Peel's London Metropolitan Police Act came into effect) after architect John Haviland finished construction.   In most cases, this is considered to be the first true prison in the world, despite the fact that the Walnut Street jail was operating as early as 1776.   The prison design was something very new, resembling   the form of that of a wagon wheel (a circular center with hallways extending forth in a radial form, like spokes), and resulted in Eastern State's architecture becoming the basis for as many as 300 other prisons worldwide.   The all stone cells within were accessed by a steel door, with a wooden door to filter out noise.   Each cell was 8x12x10 feet and came with its own hot water heating, toilet, water tap, and individual exercise yards which were also 8x12x10.   This left hardly any reasons that the inmate had to leave his cell during the day (other than labor).   When the inmate had to work, he would walk down halls, resembling those of a church, to his work area.   That architecture is no coincidence.   It was done with the grand idea of reform in...