Have you ever seen that Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis movie 12 Monkeys? Last weekend Kaela and I decided to check out Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia where the asylum scenes were filmed. Operating between 1829-1971, the penitentiary became the model from which most modern prisons were built. The notion of solitary confinement was taken to such extreme in this prison that inmates literally lost their sanity. Charles Dickens’ senses of the prison were so offended that he details them in his work American Notes.
In its intention I am well convinced that it is kind, humane, and meant for reformation; but I am persuaded that those who designed this system of Prison Discipline, and those benevolent gentleman who carry it into execution, do not know what it is that they are doing….I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye,… and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment in which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.
The prison is also notable for housing Al Capone, having a dog as an inmate, and being home to a few children over the years. Today the prison is in a state of “preserved ruin.” Be sure to check out my Flickr gallery along with the following links.