A prison is a place in which individuals are physically confined and deprived of a range of personal freedoms.
- At the risk of quoting Mephistopheles I repeat: Welcome to hell. A hell erected and maintained by human-governments, and blessed by black robed judges. A hell that allows you to see your loved ones, but not to touch them. A hell situated in America's boondocks, hundreds of miles away from most families. A white, rural hell, where most of the captives are black and urban. It is an American way of death.
- Mumia Abu-Jamal, All Things Censored (2001, Seven Stories Press), pp. 55-56
- Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilisation.
- Winston Churchill, letter to Home Secretary Herbert Morrison (November 21, 1943); Churchill, Closing the Ring (vol. 5 of The Second World War; 1951), p. 679.
- Changi became my university instead of my prison. ... Among the inmates there were experts in all walks of life — the high and the low roads. I studied and absorbed everything I could from physics to counterfeiting, but most of all I learned the art of surviving.
- "And a bird-cage, sir," said Sam. "Veels vithin veels, a prison in a prison."
- A prison taint was on everything there. The imprisoned air, the imprisoned light, the imprisoned damps, the imprisoned men, were all deteriorated by confinement. As the captive men were faded and haggard, so the iron was rusty, the stone was slimy, the wood was rotten, the air was faint, the light was dim. Like a well, like a vault, like a tomb, the prison had no knowledge of the brightness outside; and would have kept its polluted atmosphere intact, in one of the spice islands of the Indian Ocean.
- Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, book 1, chapter 1 (1855), p. 4.
- The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.
- Mr. Emerson visited Thoreau at the jail, and the meeting between the two philosophers must have been interesting and somewhat dramatic. The account of the meeting was told me by Miss Maria Thoreau [Henry Thoreau's aunt]—"Henry, why are you here?" Waldo, why are you not here?
- Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Arthur Samuel Jones, Thoreau's Incarceration [As Told by His Jailer], p. 15 (1962). This exchange was supposed to have taken place on July 23 or 24, 1846, in the Concord, Massachusetts, jail where Thoreau was placed for nonpayment of poll taxes. There are many versions of this story, but Thoreau's account does not mention a visit by Emerson, in his Reform Papers, ed. Wendell Glick (1973), p. 79–84, so it is probably apocryphal.
- Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?
- Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
- Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage,
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
- Richard Lovelace, "To Althea, From Prison" (1642)
- Happiness is a prison, Evey. Happiness is the most insidious prison of all.
- Show me a prison, show me a jail
Show me a pris'ner whose face has grown pale
And I'll show you a young man
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I.
- Over the past three decades, the number of prison inmates in the United States has increased by more than 600%, leaving it the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world. During this time, incarceration has changed from a punishment reserved primarily for the most heinous offenders to a much greater range of crimes and a much larger segment of the population.
- Devah Pager (9 March 2014), The Mark of a Criminal Record, 108, The American Journal of Sociology, pp. 937-975
- Doubles grilles à gros cloux,
Triples portes, forts verroux,
Aux âmes vraiment méchantes
Vous représentez l'enfer:
Mais aux âmes innocentes
Vous n'etes que du bois, des pierres, du fer.
- 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.
- Paul Pellisson, written on the walls of his cell in the Bastile (c. 1661)
- Fast closed with double grills
- Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten brass,
Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links of iron,
Can be retentive to the strength of spirit;
But life, being weary of these worldly bars,
Never lacks power to dismiss itself.
- I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world:
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it; yet I'll hammer it out.
- Might I but through my prison once a day
Behold this maid: all corners else o' the earth
Let liberty make use of; space enough
Have I in such a prison.
- And, for thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorr'd commands,
Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison'd thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years; within which space she died
And left thee there; where thou didst vent thy groans
As fast as mill-wheels strike.
- If a captive mind is unaware of being in prison, it is living in error. If it has recognized the fact, even for the tenth of a second, and then quickly forgotten it in order to avoid suffering, it is living in falsehood. Men of the most brilliant intelligence can be born, live and die in error and falsehood. In them, intelligence is neither a good, nor even an asset. The difference between more or less intelligent men is like the difference between criminals condemned to life imprisonment in smaller or larger cells. The intelligent man who is proud of his intelligence is like a condemned man who is proud of his large cell.
- Simone Weil, in "Human Personality" ('c. 1933), in Simone Weil : An Anthology (1986), edited by Siân Miles, p. 69
- I never saw sad men who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
In happy freedom by.
- Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898)
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 634.
- In durance vile here must I wake and weep,
And all my frowsy couch in sorrow steep.
- Robert Burns, Epistle from Esopus to Maria in Chambers' Burns' Life and Work, Volume IV
- Whene'er with haggard eyes I view
This dungeon that I'm rotting in,
I think of those companions true
Who studied with me at the U-
Niversity of Göttingen.
- George Canning, song, Of One Eleven Years in Prison. Found in The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin. Also in Burlesque Plays and Poems, edited by Henry Morley
- Prison'd in a parlour snug and small,
Like bottled wasps upon a southern wall.
- William Cowper, Retirement, line 493
- As if a wheel had been in the midst of a wheel.
- Ezekiel. X. 10
- In durance vile.
- That which the world miscalls a jail,
A private closet is to me.
* * * * *
Locks, bars, and solitude together met,
Make me no prisoner, but an anchoret.
- Attributed to Sir Roger L'Estrange. Also to Lord Capel. Found in the New Foundling Hospital for Wit (Ed. 1786), IV. 40, as a supplementary stanza. See Notes and Queries (April 10, 1909), p. 288