Forged Images Production Cooperative
January 1, 1998
Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary was built in the 1820s, inspired by Enlightenment ideas and Quaker belief in solitary reflection and penitence. This documentary, illustrated with period lithographs, engravings, and photographs, gives a detailed history of the prison from its initial practice of total solitary confinement through its transformation into an overcrowded “Big House” to its replacement with a modern facility in 1970.
The narrative places Eastern’s changing practices in their social context and raises serious questions about the contemporary growth of prisons in the United States.