catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 14 :: 2005.07.15 — 2005.07.28


The end of the tunnel

Cellblock 5 Gallery: When Eastern State Penitentiary
opened in 1829, visitors from around the world marveled at its grand
architecture and radical philosophy. With its high arched cathedral and
over 1,000 skylights, the building feels more like a religious space,
rather than a prison. The penitentiary closed in 1970 and was abandoned
for over fifteen years. Photo: Elena Bouvier, 1998.

The proof in the theological pudding, however, was Eastern State
Penitentiary's miserable failure a hundred and fifty years ago.
Solitary confinement tended to bring about madness rather than
redemption. The prison was eventually referred to as "maniac-making"
and keeping prisoners in isolation was abandoned less than fifty years
after the prison was built.

On page two of the Bible that all of the prisoners were given it
reads: "It is not good that the man should be alone." It made me wonder
if it was ever given a careful reading by those who formulated this
particular plan for reform. Perhaps if they had, they would have
discovered that the answer really did lie within.

Dayton Castleman received a B.A. degree in Art from Belhaven
College in Jackson, Mississippi, and currently works as a campus
minister with creative students in downtown Philadelphia. Dayton
coordinates The Church studio space for artists, and the Artists in
Residence program at Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church located in
Fairmount, just south of Eastern State. He currently serves on the
board of Christians in the Visual Arts. Dayton, his wife Karen and
daughter Anna live in Philadelphia.

The End of the Tunnel will be on view at Eastern State
Penitentiary through November 31, 2005, and hopefully for several more
years. To learn more about Eastern State Penitentiary, check out
Eastern State Penitentiary: Crucible of Good Intentions, by Norman Johnston.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus