Because this is being and has been discussed here before, I though it would be worthwhile to post this on its own. My understanding is the prison system(s) developed here in the US were really a grand experiment and departure from what came from Europe. Prisons were not places of long term confinement there. They were places to extract information from those captive. They were what we'd consider torture facilities. Punishments were handed out in public. Repeat offenders could meet with death even for offenses not considered capital ones today. Often the accuser was also on trial. "Bearing false witness" was itself a criminal offense in parts of Europe. If you accused your neighbor of a theft and that person was "arrested" and proven innocent...woe be to you. Execution also was handled quite differently than it is now and this mostly depended on ones status and the type of crime. Unless you were royalty, you were expected to suffer in death. Again, this was done publicly. "Drawing and quartering was a favorite and had some cruel variations. Hangings were almost done ceremonially with parades to the gallows with the accused brought by cart....often jeering to the crowd. This, I believe, was more a British thing. Royalty was afforded the luxury of being beheaded as it was thought to be less painful as well as there being other reasons. I'm sure King Henry's VIIIs ex's might have another take on it. Here's a bit on how the US system came into being.
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