Prisons has legal codes, The best known of
these early legal codes is the Code of Hammurabi, written in Babylon around
The penalties for violations of the laws in Hammurabi’s Code were
almost exclusively centered on the concept of lex talionis (“the law of retaliation”),
whereby people were punished as a form of vengeance, often by the victims
This notion of punishment as vengeance or retaliation can also be
found in many other legal codes from early civilizations, including the ancient
Sumerian codes, the Indian Manama Dharma Astra, the Hermes Trismegistus of
Egypt, and the Israelite Mosaic Law
Some Ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato, began to
develop ideas of using punishment to reform offenders instead of simply using
it as retribution.
Imprisonment as a penalty was used initially for those who
could not afford to pay their fines. Eventually, since impoverished Athenians
could not pay their fines, leading to indefinite periods of imprisonment, time
limits were set instead. The prison in Ancient Athens was known as the
desmoterion (“place of chains”)
The Romans were among the first to use prisons as a form of
punishment, rather than simply for detention. A variety of existing structures
were used to house prisoners, such as metal cages, basements of public
buildings, and quarries. One of the most notable Roman prisons was the
Mamertine Prison, established around 640 B.C. by Ancus Marcius.
Prison was located within a sewer system beneath ancient Rome and contained a
large network of dungeons where prisoners were held in squalid conditions,
contaminated with human waste. Forced labor on public works
projects was also a common form of punishment. In many cases, citizens were
sentenced to slavery, often in ergastula.
Right from ancient Greek to the highly educated Anthens to the world power Roman’s People were punish one way or the orther for their wrong doings. As a prisoner you know whatbis expected of you as soon as you arrive your ergustula or prison.
This kind of environment automatically instill in you the spirit of a slave or someone in bondage so if you have the opportunity to beg for freedom you won’t hesitate.
But throughout the story we read above those that offend are meant to been taken away to a separate correctional facility. But why is it that some great legend of our time like Martin Luther King to Mandela were taken as prisoners?
What was their offense?
Well this is not a topic of what these two mean did. I want to quick dive a little into the activities of Nelson Mandela to see whether he begged for freedom or if he ever assume the role or looked at himself as a prisoner while in prison.
In 1964 Mandela and his co-accused were transferred from Pretoria to the prison on Robben Island, remaining there for the next 18 years.Isolated from non-political prisoners in Section B, Mandela was imprisoned in a damp concrete cell measuring 8 feet (2.4 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m), with a straw mat on which to sleep. Verbally and physically harassed by several white prison wardens, the Rivonia Trial prisoners spent their days breaking rocks into gravel, until being reassigned in January 1965 to work in a lime quarry. Mandela was initially forbidden to wear sunglasses, and the glare from the lime permanently damaged his eyesight. At night, he worked on his LLB degree which he was obtaining from theUniversity of London through a correspondence course with Wolsey Hall, Oxford, but newspapers were forbidden, and he was locked in solitary confinement on several occasions for the possession of smuggled news clippings. He was initially classified as the lowest grade of prisoner, Class D, meaning that he was permitted one visit and one letter every six months, although all mail was heavily censored.
By 1975, Mandela had become a Class A prisoner, which allowed him greater numbers of visits and letters. He corresponded with anti-apartheid activists likeMangosuthu Buthelezi and Desmond Tutu. That year, he began his autobiography, which was smuggled to London, but remained unpublished at the time; prison authorities discovered several pages, and his LLB study privileges were revoked for four years. Instead, he devoted his spare time to gardening and reading until the authorities permitted him to resume his LLB degree studies in 1980.
When Nelson Mandela reflected on his Robben Island experiences on returning there in 1994 he said: “Wounds that can’t be seen are more painful than those that can be seen and cured by a doctor. One of the saddest moments of my life in prison was the death of my mother. The next shattering experience was the death of my eldest son in a car accident.” He was refused permission to attend either funeral.
The notorious island, within sight of the city of Cape Town and Table Mountain, acquired its name from the seals that once populated it in multitudes – robben being the Dutch word for seal. Its three centuries as a prison island and a place of banishment were punctuated by a period as a leper colony.