Penitence

PENITENCE – The action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious lawbreakers, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.

Some believe that the doors were small so prisoners would have a harder time getting out, minimizing an attack on an officer. Others have explained the small doors forced the prisoners to bow while entering their cell. This design is related to penance and ties to the religious inspiration of the prison. The cells were made of concrete with a single glass skylight, representing the “Eye of God”, suggesting to the prisoners that God was always watching them.

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Penitence