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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  May 16, 2015 8:00am-9:01am EDT

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to the u.s. senate. look for his work in june. >> each week, american history tv's american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places. opened in 1829, philadelphia's eastern state penitentiary operated as a prison until 1971. now a museum, we visited to learn about the history of the institution that coined the term "penitentiary" and tried to do something revolutionary -- reform criminals. guide: my name is nick, a tour guide at eastern state penitentiary. today, we will spend the next hour or so looking through this beautiful building. this is, today, an estate of
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stabilized ruin. this is after 142 years of use as a prison, which, when it first opened in 1829, was considered experimental. it was a brand-new type a prison. it was so unlike anything else tried at that time. they did not want to call it a prison. they invented a new word --penitentiary. the root in that word is the root is "penitent." -- the root in that word is "penitent." this is the first attempt at the humane treatment of a criminal. a very quaker inspired idea that deep down everybody was perfectly good. in this building, that person would have a chance to reflect on their life and become penitent, to change themselves and reform themselves through that feeling. a great question is, how do you make someone penitent? how do you make someone confront some of those decisions they had made? we'll spend a lot of time inside the cell blocks addressing that. while we're out here, take a quick look around, i want to
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show you some of the architecture of this place. when it first opened in 1829 the architect of the building, a young british man won a $100 prize to design the thing. he wanted to look hundreds of years older than it actually was. he goes with this gothic revival style. you can see the battlements. the arrow slit windows. even the imposing-ness of the stone facade, you have to imagine it the way of -- the way a philadelphia and would have and the early 1800s. first off, you would hopefully be seeing it from two miles away. the city today is totally surrounding the entire prison, but when it first opened, this was acres of open farmland all around. imagine that you are in that smaller city. you look up to the north. you would be looking at this, the largest public structure on the continent. it was supposed to intimidate. all of the castle-like elements are supposed to make us think
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about one of the things we associate with a castle -- absolute authority, dungeons and torture. you imagine what happens in the basement of the castle. interesting that inside of what was happening here was actually this new attempt at humane punishment. when the outside was such a harsh and intimidating kind of look towards the outside. it is also, as far as castles go, totally safe. those battlements on top of the 80 foot south tower are knee-high. they are not going to help in any kind of siege. all along the outside of the perimeter, you will see arrow slit windows, but they do not go through the wall. there is no aperture on the inside. again, just for the look of the thing, rather than the actual function of it. but i want to bring us around the way, show you more of the architecture outside before we
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head to one of the oldest cellblocks on site. i'm going to head just up this way. watch your step. it is very icy out. i am going to bring us into the corner here, just to give you a sense of the scale of this place. 10.5 acres. the perimeter wall, you can get a sense of. 30 feet high. it goes another 10 feet deep. underground. this is almost 8 feet thick. at its race. this goes for half-mile all away -- all the way around the site. so, not just the largest, but i want to stress this -- this was the most expensive thing, one of the united states had ever built. the only more expensive building on the continent was the capitol dome in d.c., as far as public structures go. this tells us a lot about the priorities of these early pennsylvanians. this was the major project. it was 8 times over its budget.
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and they kept building. they were committed towards this new approach, this new idea, just to try something new as far as crime and punishment, compared to what they had been doing. but we are going to head inside to cellblock one. come on in. this is cellblock one from 1829. it is, by today's standards, kind of gloomy. but back then, this was considered beautifully well lit for 19th century standards. every cell even had its own skylight in here. so, we said the outside architecture resembled kind of this gothic revival castle. you see the inside. it is much more cathedral-like.
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a lot of these early ideas of penitence was very religiously inspired. this is when crime was often equated with sin. a lot of these ideas of penitence are built into the building. we will see examples of this as we go through. before we focus on what eastern state was doing, take a look at prisons beforehand. this is what they were trying to not do here. this is an illustration of newgate prison in london. william penn spent time here when he was a young, reckless quaker. but this was similar to other jails here. you get the sense of everything going on here. total chaos. fighting. what we think of as correctional officers today did not exist back then. it does not matter if someone was, picked someone's pockets or stabbed them to death, everyone was in the same room together.
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mercifully, the artist did not draw the opens were that was in this area. disease was prevalent. typhus was so common they called it "jail fever." you did not have to worry if you had money. usually prisons would have a , separate area for the aristocracy. but if someone did not have money or did not have family to support them for their time in prison, they might not eat. many of these prisons, food was not provided. you had to purchase it. this was way different than what we think about prison today. today, prison is the punishment. back then, jails and prisons were just the waiting area. this is where someone would be held pretrial. in the meantime, if they want to dance on the table or play ball or gamble -- i love this as an example. one jail had a bar in it. if you did not have enough money, you could sell your clothes for liquor. you can imagine the kind of environment people were being held in.
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of course, the trial would occur in the punishment, again, not time. it would be maybe a fine execution for serious crimes banishment, occasionally, but much more commonly, physical punishment. there are some examples we have illustrated along the wall. whipping -- very common. estate loved with thing. it was cheap, easy to do. the worse the crime was, the more times the criminal would be beaten. then they are free to go. branding. this is another painful one. but you can see, i mean, the pain of being burned with a hot iron was not the real punishment. the real punishment was branding, the mark that lasted forever. sometimes on the face, indicating "criminal." compare that to the ideas here about trying to change someone. very different approaches. stockades, pillories.
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this was more about public humiliation. if you are familiar with philadelphia, there is a beautiful park about three minutes from here called logan's square. 300 years ago you could bring , your whole family to have an entertaining evening of throwing rocks at criminals. if you are really lucky, you could catch a public hanging. although pennsylvania was the first state to say maybe we do not want to do that outside. so this was it. this was our criminal justice system. it had some quirks that reformers were looking at. the prisons, of kursk, were filthy, violent, and -- the prisons, of course, were filthy, violent, and overcrowded. the punishments were not seen as cruel and unusual. this is a bigger issue pretty -- this is a bigger issue, you can imagine. let's say there is a young first-time offender. they get arrested, they spent a few weeks in walnut street jail. they are getting drunk, catching typhus, hanging out with criminals, they get whipped. you can imagine what that person's life is like afterwards. there is no incentive to reform.
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not only are they going to go back to their old ways, but they considered those prisons an area where you can learn new crimes. tricks of the trade, networking, right? these guys want to switch it up. if you visit philadelphia, you will get very acquainted with ben franklin. he was so active in civic life. he invites some wealthy and prominent philadelphians over to his place. bishop william white among them. i love the name of the group they come up with. the philadelphia society for alleviating the miseries of public prisons. it is a little long. today the group is still around. it is the pennsylvania prison society. we are looking at the first organization in the world dedicated to prison reform. this is shortly before franklin was involved with helping to write what became the bill of rights that language about cruel and unusual punishment, we see that today in the 8th amendment.
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no cruel or unusual punishment. they had a new idea for how a person could run, but they would need a very expensive, custom-built prison to try it out. the idea that they had -- it took them 30 years to convince the state on. it is called the separate system. and all of the architecture and technology in this building was designed around the idea. so, instead of dozens of people tossed together, at eastern state penitentiary, one prisoner would spend the entire sentence, an average of 2 to 8 years back then, in this cells. they would never leave it. they would never see another prisoner. and they had to serve the time in absolute silence. again, the goal was penitence. how do you make someone penitent? it was, again, this quaker-inspired belief that the innate goodness of a person. if you just seal away the evils
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of the outside world, they would naturally return to that goodness. after a few hours, and a few days, they would ask for something to do. a book was provided. you can probably guess which one. the bible. and no other books. in the early days, no reading material outside of that. no newspapers. not even letters. certainly no personal visits from friends or family. but it was not pure isolation. they had a few professional visits. the moral instructor. it sounds quite today, but you think in prisons today, the idea of caseworkers and psychiatrists. that got started here. same thing with job-training. it is something we see in practically every prison today. once a month at eastern state, a professional would calm, give the prisoner the materials they needed to learn the craft or a trade. cellblock one is the shoemaking
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cellblock. there was another one for weaving, furniture making, cigar rolling. it is a simple idea, but just, again, the hope is in here, they are going to have this quiet reflective time. learn how to become a new person and then they are going to leave with a set of job skills and get a job and become a taxpayer. amazingly high ideals at that point. yeah, and when it first opened there was a lot of hope for the wave was going to go this way. you can maybe already get a sense of what happened. when it first opened though, the entire world sat up and took notice of philadelphia. foreign dignitaries as far away as china were being sent to the city for the first time with the express purpose of studying this building. part of it was this new idea of penitence but much of it was actually in the architecture and
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technology. this was really, there are some architectural historians that consider eastern state penitentiary the first modern building in the world on account of its large-scale environmental systems. every cell had running water. every cell had a room and -- a rudimentary a flush toilet. you can see in this diagram it , connects to a central sewer. this building had central heating in 1829. even the warden was required to live in that front gate house. he did not have a toilet. they did not think of it as a luxury. it was the answer to how to keep someone isolated? they wanted no distractions in that little crucible of penitence, so that they could focus on their own personal path of betterment. every cell even had its own private, attached backyard. 23 hours a day locked inside. then an officer would unlock an intermediate set of gates.
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they were allowed for, to one half hours near sunrise and evening, for fresh air and sunlight. almost like a little dog run off the back of each cell. if a prisoner wanted to garden it was encouraged. the position thought it was therapeutic. some prisoners even kept birds and rabbits. i read about one prisoner who was growing teaches -- peaches to supplement his meals. three meals a day delivered to the cell. it's funny. if all you heard about was the peaches and cocoa and gardens, you would be like, this place is amazing. if all you heard about was the silence and enforced isolation, you would think that this was the most terrible prison ever built. but the fact it was both. it means this was an entirely
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new type of punishment. it is a reason its of the founder so long to convince the state. they had to say, listen, do not expect anyone to change lastingly unless you take care of all of the material needs first. only then, will the prisoner be able to focus on the spiritual discipline that they were trying to get people to address in here. brand-new ideas for this time. this is another curiosity. you can see this prisoner here is hooded. he has gone officer behind him they were called keepers at that time, being led into the cell. whenever prisoners were moved around, first got in they were , hooded. so they cannot see anyone else. it ups that feeling of isolation. they cannot see the building. it is disorienting. if you are trying to escape, you come out of the cell, what is the first thing you see? it is totally quiet. now what? but here is a curiosity. we have hoods with eye holes.
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what is the purpose of a hood if they can see the building or other prisoners? this is a new idea here. the hoods were to preserve the anonymity of the prisoner. they were only identified by an inmate number. the hope was only a handful of people would actually knew that they would have served time. after the time at eastern state, the hope was they would go and have a fresh start. compare that to being branded on the face and known as a horse thief the rest of your life. or even today, a felony conviction will show up on student loan applications or housing applications. these were brand-new ideas for that time. but i'm going to show you the inside of one of these cells of the early separate system here. much of the building we are keeping in the state of stabilized decay. this area you can see, we
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actually restored a cell to what it would've looked like in that early separate system. wood floors, all the working materials, and of course that , gate would have led to that backyard. there are these curious half doors on the outside here. the first three cellblocks they built, they did not bother putting doors to the inside. prisoners were brought in through the act of that yard. this was a feeding window. food and working materials where pastor the iran door. trying to cut down on human -- food and working materials where put through the iron door. trying to cut down on human contact. imagine if your meal slides in silently. if you did not clean it, by the time it was retracted, you would not get your next meal. so, on paper, everything sounds great. but in practice, the separate system had so many issues with it. imagine today in a prison, who mops the floors?
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who does the maintenance? the prisoners. but who was supposed to do that if everyone is locked in learning cottage industries? they just broke the rules . prisoners were brought out to work in the kitchen, in the laundry. the first warden samuel wood wanted a butler. so he took a prisoner out of isolation. william hamilton becomes his personal servant. he was the first person to escape. if everything happened according to plan, it would be an incredibly strict prison. but in actuality, it was impossible to maintain. let's take a look inside one of the cells just up the way here. so, these two cells are open. take a step inside. watch your head here.
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so, you can hear out echo-y it is in here. part of that again, early on was the silence. any noise was -- any noise would be punished. so the entire place was whisper quiet. the officers were told to put socks on over there boots. -- their boots. if you were in your backyard your neighbors were not. they did not want inmates shouting over the walls. i should mention, what we see in the cell today, this became in the 1930's, one of the maximum-security units. so the bed frame is bolted to the ground. the toilets -- this is a modern toilet encased in concrete. so no one could smash it and have a shard as a weapon. and the axis to the backyards -- and the access to the backyards, they eventually started using the backyard spaces for other things.
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and the entryways to them were sealed up. so we're looking at a lot of layers to the present -- through the prison through decades of history, even though we are talking about the early days. let's head on back out this way. pretty spacious in there. compared to other prisons at that time, especially. and also designed for one. add in the backyard, that was a lot of space. it was a lot of expense, but this prison, the separate system , had so many different problems built in. one was -- i mean, you can imagine what happens if you keep someone alone in silence for years at a time. not exactly mentally healthy. and that silence rule was being broken so frequently. they were trying to be humane, but the punishments were, well they escalated quickly. it starts they would take a meal away. then they would take yard time away. but the prisoner just could not
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stop talking or trying to communicate with other people. they were learning, shouting down the toilet. throwing notes into adjacent yards. they had something called the iron gag. think of it like a horse's bit. a chunk of metal to the press of the tongue. it locks around the back of the head with chains. in 1833, there was one death in the prison. a prisoner serving 12 years for murder choked to death in the iron gag. a prompted an investigation. that inspection came in here. they were addressing a number of different whistleblower complaints about the warden. it turns out the place was going not according to plan. that inspection learned prisoners were regularly allowed out of the separate system. they found out the wife of one of the officers was throwing parties in the front gate house and inviting the prisoners. it was chaos. and then they also found out
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this, kind of issue with the , mental health of solitary confinement. starting to not, admit that it was a problem, but certainly adjusting it. that problems -- that problem solved itself. they did not have to worry about the effects of isolation when they had to worry about overcrowding. as early as 12 years in, they ran out of cells. the entire prison was built for solitary separate confinement, and now they had to have two to a cell. then they had two or three or five to a cell. this is two cells joined together. at the highest peak of population, there were seven prisoners in one cell. so, all of these reasons for building the prison, this penitentiary, to separate someone from the challenges of being with another person, they did not have to worry about disease or violence or contraband or criminal ideas
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being passed around. suddenly, they are right back to where they started. so, this was, for decades in the late 1800s the prison system, this separate system was unraveling. until 1913, they officially admit the separate system was broken. again, looks great on paper. in practice, it was unworkable. expensive to build, expensive to run mentally unhealthy, and then , so overcrowded they could not keep everyone separate anyway. the prison changes. i want you to imagine this place in the 20th century. much closer to what we think of prisons today. prisoners have a cellmate. they are allowed to talk. instead of eating and working alone in a cell, they eat in the mess hall. they play sports together. they make chess clubs. there is an orchestra. they write publications for what becomes the print shop.
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you can imagine, let's say you are an officer, you unlock every cell in cellblock one here, you're going to lead all of these people to breakfast. what is your big concern going to be? suddenly, they have to address security in a way they had not needed to in the early days of isolation. these gates, the door has been removed to it, but you get the idea. this gate labeled cellblock one called a riot gate. it was not needed for the original building. 1924 is when they add gates. now they have to think about how to move large numbers of prisoners around? how do you address of those security needs? how do you run a congregate prison in an old stone building built before electricity and designed for an entirely different style of confinement? lot of issues, and we will see a lot of little patchwork fixes along the way. but this is the heart of the prison.
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this is one of the reasons the place became so world-famous. this circle here is the exact center of 10.5 acres. in the middle of the rotunda. officers named the spot center. from this one spot, just by turning and looking around, you could see the entire prison. this was just seven cellblocks. all of the link up to this one central hub. now, this was not the first centrally planned prison. but the architect, his real contribution was keeping it empty. other prisons would have the kitchens or something here. he said, take it away. keep it open for what he called economy convenience, , ventilation, and watching. watching you get right away. you can see the whole place in less than a second, if you need to. it's convenient to get to anywhere. you feel the cross breeze. it is amazing ventilation. and it is an economical way of staffing the place.
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you can imagine, seven cellblocks that are different, just laid out, unconnected. you need either one officer patrolling or seven officers to see everything at once. from here, because we can see everything, though, you can see some of the changes early on. but this radio plan, as it is called, this is copied something like 300 times all around the world. today, every continent but antarctica has a prison modeled after eastern state. so influential for prison design. the cellblock we walked through, cellblock one, was one story high. so is cellblock two. then you can see something that changes. cellblocks four, five, six, and seven had a second floor. the plans have been 47 but
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before they completed the blueprint, they realized they were headed for an overcrowding problem. so the state asks the architect, can you give it more cells? he does not like it. from the surveillance hub, you are not doing surveillance on the top floor. you think the cells are missing something. they do not have the backyard. on the underside, no skylight. they kind of solved that they , put a window in the back. that did nothing. top floor, no backyard -- better than nothing. they had an empty cell next door. outside time was inside. the reason they're adding extra cells, is not to keep them open. soon those indoor yards are used up as space. by the late 1800's, exercise looked like a small group of inmates, all pitted together, brought into the yard. the system was falling apart. you can get a great sense of what's changed here. by 1836, 7 cellblocks were complete.
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you can see there is usable farmland between. some lucky inmates were being taught agriculture. they would come out of the cellblock there, work in the yards alone. there was a greenhouse. trying to help the prison be self-sufficient and way outside of the city. 1855. take a look at this aerial photo 99 years after that. it is a very different prison. this is a photo. you're looking at the roofs of 14 cellblocks all jampacked in. they are not even done yet. they squeezed in a 15th in after the photo was taken. imagine this place at its most overcrowded. 1929. there were over 1800 prisoners. the original design, they were going to house 250 on the property.
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over time, they are continually adding new buildings, new cellblocks, to earn three stories high, -- two and three stories high, always trying to meet the demand of the numbers they had here. you can imagine with that number, there is not nearly enough work to go around. there were laws around saying only 10% of the prisoners were allowed to have gainful employment. so, there would not be any competition against the outside markets with the indoor labor here. imagine 90% of those guys just hanging around. they start to see a lot of trouble in the 1920's. gang activity. drug rings. prostitution rings. corrupt officers. all sorts of different violent riots and escape attempts. the warden in 1923, there was a grand jury investigation. he is about, well, we will let history decide. about as corrupt as they come. it looks like the corruption especially in the heroin trade may have gone all the way up to
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him. the new warden comes in. it is his job to clean up the place. the first thing he wants to do is build a farm branch. get the overcrowding out of the building. let's say you are that new warden. what type of offender would you pick to get onto a bus, drive out, build a new farm branch and stay out there? what kind of offender gets that job? they selected low flight risk minor offenders. they get on the bus. who would that leave behind? suddenly eastern state penitentiary became some of the hardened convicts in the state jammed into this one prison. just as a great compare and contrast 1830, the number one , offense was horse theft. 1930, the number one offense was second-degree murder. more than half the men were in for violent offenses. the sentences were getting longer. decades, life terms, even
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awaiting death sentences. you can kind of get a sense of the character of the place changing. early on, the goal, the reason for building this was penitence. isolation and penitence would lead to reform. by the early 20th century, the number one goal for the place was secured, was control. that is not to say reform went away entirely. they had classroom instruction job training. but not nearly enough. you can see, not just the goal of security, but there was a pretty good reason for it. by the 1900s, the city had grown completely around the outside of the walls. by the 1900's, we have warehouses. that building is an elementary school. right next to the maximum-security prison. again, a ton of changes over time.
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but i want to bring us out to the ball field. we are going to talk about life in the 20th century here. then i will show you our exhibit about current corrections today. this is cellblock four. from 1830, some of those early cellblocks designed for the separate system. but it has seen a lot of changes over time. that is one of the old food carts. you can see it is built into the rail to deliver meals all along the length of this cellblock. some of the photos we see here are all from the 20th century. machine shops, workshops, they had a whole different slew of things. typewriter repair, a box factory. this is one of the strangest photos we have in our archives. these men are drying a line of tiny clothing. we have no idea why. passing the time, i suppose.
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this prisoner is wearing headphones. if you take a look inside the best inside of cells, there is a square box with headphone jacks. by the 1930's, inmates could purchase headphones and plug into four different radio channels. even in some of the cells designed for two, they have two headphone boxes. you would not have to argue what everyone was listening to. this cellblock, especially, you can see the extent of the decay. i always rush to let prisoners know -- sorry, visitors know that prisoners did not sleep on a pile of rocks like that. this was, after the prison shut down, we are looking through decades of neglect. there are over 1000 skylights in the building, which is 1000 places water got in. you imagine 20 years of freezing
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and thawing through the winter. the place got an absolute mess. but our goal is not to fix it up. we are never going to be plastered that wall or repaint this cellblock. the goal is what we call a stabilized ruin. we are just trying to keep it from falling apart any further. this last cell on the right is one of the shower cells. in the early 1800's, inmates would be hooded and brought to the gatehouse for a bath about once every three weeks, which sounds a little grody, but compared to philadelphia at that time, it was not too far off. by the 1920's, they had a shower cell installed in every cellblock. let's head back outside. just this way. this is my favorite view of the whole prison. a 19th century stone tower. 20th century steel guard tower
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with a clock on it. 21st century comcast tower. this was all the skyscrapers you , can see beyond the perimeter there. by the time the prison shut down in 1971, they were not there yet, but many of the prisoners we interviewed would often talk about their connection to the outside world, with the city just on the other side of the wall. they would hear things like, a school bus or the ice cream truck or fourth of fireworks. julythey comment on that feeling of being able to hear it but still totally disconnected. i guess that is part of the reason for prisons, right? that idea of what you are giving up. what is taken away. this area here. not much to look at today with all of the snow on it but this , was the baseball field. in the 20th century, they needed a large area for congregate sports. there is that metal fence-looking structure. that was actually the backstop
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for baseball. it has field goal posts for football. they also played out here. along the left field wall, there is this four foot high fence. it's not a regulation-sized field. it was easy to blast home runs out of here all day. then you think -- what is on the other side of the wall? we have accounts from the 1920's of trolleys having their windows smashed and the drivers injured. another issue of baseballs being returned back in. in the the 1920's, there was a cocaine smuggling ring with racquetballs being tossed over full of cocaine. 1944, a package of dynamite was just tossed in here. fortunately, they secured that but we get to see one of the real challenges of this place. it was never designed to be in the middle of the city. it was definitely not designed to be maximum-security. then it found itself being both of those things. there are prisons in center city, philadelphia, designed to
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be there. you could walk by and not even notice. this one, not the one to have. but -- let's take a look around here. this grass here. this is one of our newest exhibits. it actually shows change in the rate of incarceration in the united states over the last century or so. man, you can see 1970 is red. that is when eastern state shut down as a state facility. in the last 40 years, because of policy changes, you can see the rate has skyrocketed. that number up top -- 730 per 100,000 -- that is the number of people in prison per 100,000 citizens. it works out to about one out of every 125 americans was in prison in 2010. it is the highest rate in the world. if you want to compare it internationally, take a look around here.
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you can see the united states, we have highest rate of incarceration in the world by a pretty huge margin. we are beating out rwanda at number two. you can see this change has happened in the last 40 years. countries listed on the left like the united states use capital punishment. countries on the right do not. so what we do right now is actually historically unprecedented. no country in the history of the world has ever had this number of prisoners or this percentage of its population incarcerated or spent this much money. it is about $80 billion every year. that's combining the federal, state, and local levels. if you want to take a look on this side of the grass. this shows the breakdown of the prison population by race. you can see the major change from 1970 to 2010.
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so, even though black and latino americans are about 30% of the general population, they are overrepresented at 60% in the prison population. so, this is something, we as a historic site, have recently turned to, just to try and address and bring it up in conversation. it has certainly been a year with some great racial tension in the air. this is one of the reasons we want to remain a relevant cultural institution, as a place to kind of address some of these larger questions. is the justice system equal for everyone? what can be done? do we want this number of prisoners? why so high? what has changed since 1970? it is a super complicated topic.
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there are some things we can say for certain. now, more than ever before, a sentence -- sorry, a conviction will lead to jail time more than any other type of punishment. and now more than ever before, sentences have never been longer. curious to see how things will change and unfold. we have a space in the grass or 2020. -- for 2020. after that census, we will complete one more bar on the graph. we always ask for people's predictions. whether they think it is going up or down. as neutral as we try to be with just the data, there are ways of looking at it. you can look at the number of people in prison is going down. but the percentage, and population-wise, it is going up. people think of this as the crime rate, which it actually is not. crime has sharply decreased since the mid-1990's. both violent and nonviolent.
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much of the discussion usually turns to the war on drugs and law enforcement in that direction. in the federal system, it is about 49.5% are in for nonviolent drug offenses. that seems to be one of the areas people are focusing on as far as, if the goal of the prison system is punishment, are we achieving that? if the goal is rehabilitation, are we achieving that? it's difficult, but these are questions they were actually first addressing here 200 years ago. what is a prison for? what is the ultimate goal? how do you best get out of it? how much are you willing to spend to do so? they are very much live questions, very much unsettled. i especially love whenever we have middle school or high school groups in here, because
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they are, in a way, the people that will determine the answers to many of those questions. but we have a lot yet to see. we are going to head around the corner. i will show you more changes in the 20th century, as far as security goes. so, i will stop us here for a second. this little concrete patch was actually the handball court. they never designed the place to have large numbers of prisoners exercising at once. so, suddenly they had to scramble and use every scrap of space they had. this was the handball court. they would run track along the outside of the walls. it is sort of covered with snow but you can see these raised curves. this is where the bocce courts were for bocceball. i want to stop here, this was the site of the only successful escape. in 1923, six men got over the
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wall in the middle of the afternoon. they came out to their yard. they had pistols with them. they just started doing visitation. they had not yet built a no contact visitation room. contraband was flooding into the prison at that point. they came out here. they stuck up the two unarmed officers and lock them into a century box down here. then they brought with them what looked like a foot locker, but was actually four segments of a ladder. they assembled together. one of the escapees have been a cabinet maker before his arrest. so pretty nicely jointed together, i am sure. they get onto the roof of the sentry box. assemble the latter segments. go over the wall with a rope. they hijacked a truck on corinthian avenue. and escaped out of the city. broad daylight. 15 eyewitnesses. eventually, they did recapture five of those six. the last one they picked up they found two months later in honolulu, hawaii.
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but leo callahan disappeared. no one knows. he is the one man to escape out of the prison and never be recaptured. that was, of course, 1923. those corner towers were added in 1924. this stone was always there but it was part of the decorative, fortress-like look. the brick portions, you can see was when they were increasing security in the 1920's. officers up there were given repeating rifles, orders -- tommy guns. again, just trying to become a maximum-security prison. this concrete cellblock. cellblock 14. you can tell, by 1927, they do not care if it looks like a castle or cathedral. this is just utilitarian architecture. the challenge was, how do you house as many prisoners in a
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small space as possible for as cheap as they could? poured concrete and rebar. it is absolutely in that condition today. this was built with inmate labor. it was designed by an inmate architect. harvard-educated guy serving time for forging checks. but it is also remarkable because of what is underneath of this. you can see the stairway leads down to the basement level of the prison. the entire prison has a basement level. it is maintenance tunnels. but in this set of tunnels, they sealed this away from the rest of the prison and added four isolation cells for punishment. many prisons would call this area "the hole." here, it was known as the klondike cells. there were a few stages of punishment, but this was end of the line. particularly for violence. if someone was violent with another prisoner or especially against an officer, they could spend time down there. usually between seven and 30 days with practically nothing.
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no bed frame, no bedding, no clothing, no heating, no plumbing. bread and water, two meals a day, with a normal meal in between in absolute pitch darkness. one prisoner was down there for 30 days. it turned out his vision was permanently damaged. today, prisons in their punishment areas, typically they use hours of bright light to 24 avoid that convocation. but this was only in use for a fairly short time. 1953, the state came in. they were inspecting the prison. they saw down there and they said, you know what? if we want to be a humane prison we are going to have to find , something else. some of the officers we interviewed who were here said the do-gooders made us shut down the hole. but they had a legitimate question afterwards. which was, ok, in a humane prison, what can you do? how do you deal with an unruly or violent prisoner?
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not an easy question, but it looks like the answer, they went way back to the earliest days of eastern state. isolation. long-term solitary confinement. so we see it even in today's super max prisons. if you are familiar with super maxes, it is one step above maximum-security. one in 44 states today. it sounds a lot like eastern state early on. everyone is in separate confinement 23 hours a day. one hour in a private, attached yard. they are expensive to build and run. some of the same mental health issues, but again, it is sort of the best solution we have. it is difficult. eastern state early on, the goal was reform. super max -- the goal is really control. if you can get the unruly ones out of the general population, the hope is you can have a functioning prison system.
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at eastern state, cellblock 15 here sort of served that purpose. you can see the cornerstone. 1956. this was actually the last cellblock they built. and you can think of it like a prison inside the prison. after they shut down the hole, they needed a place to house troublesome inmates. this was one of the areas they could keep everyone away. again, just out of the general population of the prison. come on in. so cellblock 15 is also known as death row. this is where prisoners who are awaiting an execution were usually kept up on the second floor. the execution did not take place at this prison. in pennsylvania, there is one prison called rockview. it is in the center of the state. any execution in pennsylvania will happen there. used to be the electric chair. today, it is lethal injection.
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although it is, right now, being debated. just last week, governor wolf signed a moratorium, saying let's hold off on the death i don't see until we can study it more. still in active debate. we are curious here to see where it will end. come on in. this is the most modern cellblock. so, because it is from the 1950's, you can see the sink-toilet unit. still used in prisons today. a unit just like that. the bars have been removed. these used to have a sliding gate set over each cell. along the ceiling, there was a second set here. officers call this area the safety corridor. but many of these officers said they would walk up to the cell to show the guys they were not afraid of them. on this side of the bulkhead, you could see the control panel.
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that is the only one in the prison. you imagine that first cellblock we walk through trying to unlock that place by hand, a physical lock and key in front of every zone. this has some issues, though. although you can unlock all the cells with that letter -- leather you can see they bolted , this piece of metal under the leather. because this was the maximum-security prison, these were not the prisoners they were trying to move. so even though the prison had the option of being efficient, they purposely disabled it. in 1915, they were talking about shutting this prison down and building one central pennsylvania prison. shortly after that, 1923, all these grand jury investigations. then through the 1930's and 1940's, a series of riots. in 1944, the place was declared on it for human habitation and calls were made to shut it down. 1953, the state says we will
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build one last cellblock. we will change the name and try to get back to the early ideals of reform. but it was really too little, too late. it was 1961, when they had a really good reason to change their minds. 1961, there was a riot in this prison. it was the one time inmates took control. that night, a handful of inmates managed to get out of their cells. and from there, chaos started to spread. most of the officers on that night -- the night shift was 18 of them. many were taken hostage. state troopers were alerted. they came in and completely surrounded the place. they came in the front gate with tear gas and rubber bullets. there was a standoff in the garage where the hostages were being housed. this is incredible. state troopers put the riot down that night without a single loss of life. every hostage was rescued. they did it within four hours. they were all very pleased with
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operation prison breakout, as it was called. the neighbors, you can imagine not very pleased. suddenly, they had to rethink this neighborhood prison. so, it still took another decade. 1971 was when the last inmate was transferred out. i will show you this great photo up here. this is 1970. the last state inmate is leaving. you can see these guys are happy, they are waving and smiling. they are just going to a different prison and they are just happy it is not this many one. of these prisoners ended up at greater for about an hour west of here. we keep in touch with them. there are prisoners serving life terms there that actually started their terms in this building. also we have a lot of living
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history not in prison. we invite them back. every may, we have an event called alumni reunion. we invite ex-prisoners and ex-officers and staff back. they have a barbecue on the ball field. it is a visitor q&a. we invite people to ask these men questions about what their time was like here. they are all getting on in years. 70, 80 on average. it is always a great time, it they will not be around forever. you can see what happens. the city buys it from the state. they use it as an overflow facility for just a few months before realizing why the state did not want it, right? they were trying to run the modern prison in an old stone building built for a very different style of confinement. this is what happens. you can see, this is just 16 years after it is shut down, it is an urban forest. 15 foot tall trees. feral cats had moved in. vandals broke in to steal copper
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piping. the city did not want the building at first. they just wanted the land. so we have a number of plans. this is one of them. real estate developers are thinking about the eastern state penitentiary shopping mall. i think my favorite option. they were going to build luxury condos, but retain the outside wall and call it the ultimate gated community. kind of glad that did not happen. by the late 1980's, historians and civic leaders got in here and started to discover a lot of the things i have been telling you. i mean, let's just look at the building itself, right? this is an early example of american architecture that -- this was the reason european architects had to come to the united states early on. i love this as an example, just as far as visitors go. 1842 charles dickens, the first time in the u.s., he says i want to see two things in the new
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world -- the falls of niagara and the eastern state penitentiary. this was on that scale of achievement. a building as grand as something like that. that is just the building. you think of the ideas that got started here. even the word we use for our prison system today. the department of corrections. this idea that someone might be corrected or changed was actually an idea first fully applied in this building. so, definitely something we want to hold onto. we opened up in 1994 for tours. it used to be you had to put on a hard hat and sign a liability waiver. so we are getting a little bit better. we funded, our big fundraiser for the year is a haunted house. called "terror behind the wa it
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islls. -- called "terror behind the walls." it is an enormous thing. 250 actors dressed up like zombie inmates. our mission is to preserve this building so we can continue answering the questions that they had here 200 plus years ago almost. what is a prison for? what is the best way of it? how do we make that as a social institution? i want to thank you guys for joining us. we love it if you come and visit. we will be here. thanks for your time. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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>> this weekend, the c-span cities tour partner with comcast to learn about the history in literary life of fort lauderdale florida. >> this was cultural tourism. when they would set up their villages along the trail sometimes only lean to use, the buses would stop. seminoles camping by the road. when they came to the worst attractions, they were getting food. a weekly allotment. there were also getting the rental of sewing machines. they also get fabric sometimes because it believed the tour's attraction people to supply them with fabric, so they were sitting there sewing and making things for craft market. this is a little boy's belted
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shirt from the 1920's. this was an experimental time for patchwork. you can see on the bottom, this is not a design that is native today. the designs were bigger in the 1920's. sometimes they were not used any longer than during that particular decade. >> the thing about the devil's triangle, there are all kinds of things that happened. flight 19 was a regular navigation mission, training mission. they would take off from the base. flight 19, they would go east towards the bahamas. there was an area called -- where they were dropped the bombs and then they would continue another 70 miles or so and then they were supposed to turn north and go 100-something miles. then they could turn back towards fort lauderdale. they never came back.
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later at night after they were sure they were out of fuel, they sent out one of the the next day they started a five day search. >> watch all of our events from a fort lauderdale. 70 years ago, not to germany surrendered to allied forces ending world war ii in europe. up next, a panel of veterans from kansas city discuss their wartime memories. topics include the invasion of normandy and the atomic bomb. posted by the kansas city public library, this event is about an hour.


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