catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 14 :: 2005.07.15 — 2005.07.28


The end of the tunnel

Hooded Inmate:
Eastern State Penitentiary was the world's first true "Penitentiary."
In order to encourage penitence—or true regret—in the hearts of
criminals, inmates would spend their entire sentence in solitary
confinement. On the rare occasion when an inmate left his cell, a hood
was placed over his head to ensure his identity would remain anonymous.
Ideally, no inmate would ever see the face of another inmate.

The prison was designed around the Quaker theological idea of the
"Inner Light." The Quakers believed that the potential for choosing
what is good and right lay within the soul of every human. Central to
the idea is that "by 'minding the Light,' waiting for ever fuller
revelation of divine direction, the illuminated soul may eventually
find it natural to live above the power of ordinary temptation." The
thought was that by completely isolating the prisoner for
introspection, prayer and Bible reading (a prisoner's only reading
material), the Inner Light would bring about penitence (hence the
moniker "penitentiary," of which Eastern State was the first), reform
and redemption.

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