The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.
The perfection of a thing consists in its essence; there are perfect criminals, as there are men of perfect probity.
No written law has been more binding than unwritten custom supported by popular opinion.
When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you're older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.
I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up...I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through, before they could get to be as free as I was.
In jail a man has no personality. He is a minor disposal problem and a few entries on reports. Nobody cares who loves or hates him, what he looks like, what he did with his life. Nobody reacts to him unless he gives trouble. Nobody abuses him. All that is asked of him is that he go quietly to the right cell and remain quiet when he gets there. There is nothing to fight against, nothing to be mad at. The jailers are quiet men without animosity or sadism.
It was only when I lay there on the rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not between states nor between social classes nor between political parties, but right through every human heart, through all human hearts. And that is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me, bless you, prison, for having been a part of my life.
Written laws are like spiders' webs, and will, like them, only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful will easily break through them.
There are few better measures of the concern a society has for its individual members and its own well being than the way it handles criminals.
To make punishments efficacious, two things are necessary. They must never be disproportioned to the offence, and they must be certain.
America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.
One man meets an infamous punishment for that crime which confers a diadem upon another.
Fast closed with double grills And triple gates–the cell To wicked souls is hell; But to a mind that's innocent 'Tis only iron, wood and stone.
Every crime has, in the moment of its perpetration, Its own avenging angel--dark misgiving, An ominous sinking at the inmost heart.
You utter a vow, or forge a signature, and you may find yourself bound for life to a monastery, a woman, or prison.
Corporal punishment falls far more heavily than most weighty pecuniary penalty.
Once we are destined to live out our lives in the prison of our mind, our duty is to furnish it well.
The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor.