Bentham’s Panopticon

Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, where the guards could see everything being done by the prisoners at all times of the day or night.

"Morals reformed—health preserved—industry invigorated—instruction diffused—public burthens lightened—Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock—the gordian knot of the Poor-Laws not cut, but untied—all by a simple idea in Architecture!"

Wearing his social reformer hat, Bentham proposed the Panopticon as an improvement over the prevailing prison and carceral system of his day, which he believed to have harmful knock-on effects and societal costs, particularly for Great Britain's poorest.

The idea of the panopticon, a prison built around constant surveillance of the incarcerated, has proved to be one of the more controversial ideas in the history of crime, punishment, and incarceration. However the idea has enjoyed considerable attention in broader cultue for almost two centuries.