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the eighteenth century prisons were often run privately and warders charged
the inmates for food and other services. Extra payments could also lead
to separate rooms, and frequent visitors. Wealthy prisoners could live
almost as well in prison as they could outside.
first attempts to reform prisons came in the 1770s when John Howard, a magistrate,
visited prisons and then passed an Act of Parliament that led to warders
being paid a salary rather than charging fees. Elizabeth Fry, who campaigned
to improve prison conditions, began to visit Newgate Prison in the early
nineteenth century and her efforts led to the setting up of Holloway prison
But the most important changes in prisons came in the middle of the nineteenth century, when a new design of prison was introduced. This was called the 'separate system'. Here prisoners were kept in separate cells in wings radiating out from one central block. This enabled the warders to keep an eye on the prisoners as easily as possible.