> Alex Wellerstein > Postcards and artifacts > Image >

Stateville Penitentiary
Stateville Penitentiary, near Joliet, Illinois (ca. 1930s).
Not a hospital, but was interesting to me as it was one of the few prisons build somewhat on the Bentham panopticon model. An interior picture of this prison can be seen in Foucault's Discipline and Punish, but that doesn't really give a good idea of the overall size of the place. Put succinctly, the panopticon consisted of rows of cells around a central surveillance tower. In the standard Bentham model, prisoners would not be able to see whether or not the observers in the tower were looking at them specifically at any one time – the possibility would always be there that they were being watched. This would lead to an internalization of the watching, as the prisoner began to watch himself, which is what Foucault sees as being the root of discipline. The true power of surveillance is to be found in this psychological internalization of watching. All that aside, the back of the postcard reads: "The new Illinois State Penitentiary is located on the State Farm of 2,220 acres, 64 acres of which are enclosed in a concrete wall, 30 ft. high, 1 1/4 miles long, with guards' observation powers at various points. This is the largest prison 'yard' in the U.S. The arrangement of the buildings and corridors permits complete segregation and classification into five grades. All the buildings are of fire-proof construction. A specially slooped skylight upon the roof of the building permits the sun to shine directly into the glass fronts of all the cells every day the sun shines."
Scanned by myself from an original postcard.
> Back