From Pillory to Penitentiary: The Rise of Criminal Incarceration in Early Massachusetts

While the transition from the old forms of criminal sanction to incarceration was perhaps not, as Jeremy Bentham claimed, “one of the most signal improvements that have ever yet been made in our criminal legislation,” one does not overstate to call it a signal development in the history of Anglo-American criminal justice – a development, one may add, that still wants adequate examination, much less explanation. This Article attempts to do both for one sample region: Massachusetts. Though the jurisprudential movement from pillory to penitentiary took place throughout the new American republic, as well as much of western Europe, our limited focus presents a case study, and a jumping-off point for further research.