A new direction for a historic prison — on the wire today for the Associated Press

I always enjoy writing about Eastern State Penitentiary here in Philadelphia. This story is about a new direction the historic site is taking. It’s now not only about fun — like the haunted house or Bastille Day celebrations — or about trivia — like which famous inmates once stayed here. Its latest exhibit exhibits mass incarceration in the US. Read about it here.

Here’s a preview:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An old penitentiary-turned-historic-site that becomes a haunted house attraction each Halloween and provides a look back on a bygone era of corrections is taking a new direction with a hard look at today’s prisons and America’s high rate of incarceration.

Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 with the belief that criminals could redeem themselves, and it was cruel to crowd or mistreat them. The only light came from the skylight in the vaulted ceiling, sending the message that only the light of God and hard work could lead to reform.

By the 1930s, space meant to house 300 inmates instead held 2,000. By 1970, the year Eastern State closed, punishment was its primary mission.

Now, in a transformation that began modestly a few years ago, the penitentiary that housed such notorious criminals as gangster Al Capone and bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton is completing a retooling of its programming to place a major focus on growing questions about the effectiveness of America’s prison system.

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