Constructing the Past

Publication Date

Spring 2008


One of the few things that prisons were not used for, in a legal sense, was punishment. However, a multitude of laws outlined the necessity of a quick trial and short jail time. Imprisonment was seen as an inconvenience to all parties involved, and a constant flow, rather than maintaining the status quo, was the way prisons were supposed to work. There existed no sense of the prison as a final destination for the guilty, “no one [was] to be condemned to permanent imprisonment.” Manifesting a distaste for imprisonment in general, Roman law prohibited jail time and simultaneously ascribed the uses of the institution while limiting its reach. Expediency was the best policy as far as prisons were concerned and the laws themselves upheld the preventative and practical facets of prison.