The Auburn System

In the 19th century, a craze swept across the American Penal System. It was called the Auburn System, also known as the New York System. The idea was an outgrowth of the Quaker idea that solitary confinement gave prisoners much needed time for introspection and atonement.

Under the Auburn System, prisoners had to work at some marketable labor from sunup to sunset. When moved from place to place, they had to march in lockstep. Each man was bade to keep one arm on the shoulder of the man in front of him. At no time – even during meals – were prisoners allowed to talk. In fact, another common name for this penal system was the Silent System. The thinking being, that prisoners learned criminal behaviors from one another.

Punishments for even the most minor violation of these rules were vicious and excessive – with flogging being the most common. Many prisoners died under the lash, with others dying from infection days or even weeks later.

Here’s the Wiki page on this archaic form of incarceration which was predominant throughout the U.S. from 1820 through 1933.

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