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A captivating history of doing time throughout the centuries: from England’s medieval dungeons to America’s supermax detention facilities.
The first prisons were castle hellholes, places of neglect, oblivion, and slow death. Every civilization has had its dissenters, deviants, and political offenders, and so prisons became essential to the retention of power. As the centuries passed, and prisons were needed for other reprobates—such as debtors and common thieves—legal systems across the world began to cater to a growing variety of prisoners, and the business of incarceration began.
Notorious Prisons of the World traces this development, from the state prisons of Athens and Rome, to the birth of the houses of correction and the penitentiary. Stephen Wade tells fascinating stories of the infamous penal colonies and state prisons across the stage of world history, from Alcatraz and Devil’s Island to the fortress of Colditz, and from the Siberian gulags to the massive super jails sprouting across modern America. He also shares the stories of inmates and staff, political regimes, and the rise and fall of empires, all seen through the prison walls. In doing so, Wade throws light on the state-structured punishments which have stripped away individual freedoms. Sometimes with a degree of humanitarian concern, and sometimes through sheer barbarism.