From the birth of modern civilization in 3rd millennia BC, almost every major ancient civilization used concept of prisons as a mean to detain and remove personal freedoms of incarcerated people. In those early periods of history, prisons were often used as a temporary stopgap before sentencing to death or life of slavery, but as time went on and our civilization developed, prisons started morphing into correctional facilitiesthat started implementing the concept of rehabilitation and reform of prisoners. In addition of holding convicted or suspected criminals, prisons were often used for holding political prisoners, enemies of the state and prisoners of war.
The earliest records of prisons come from the 1st millennia BC, located on the areas of mighty ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. During those times, prisons were almost always stationed in the underground dungeons where guilty or suspected criminals spent their life either awaiting death sentence, or a command to become slaves (often working as galley slaves). Exception from that rule comes from the home of modern democracy – Greece. There, prisoners were held in the poorly isolated buildings where they could often be visited by their friends and family. Primary source of their detention were not dungeons, high walls or bars, but simple wooden blocks that were attached to their feet. Ancient Roman Empire however continued to use harsher methods. Their prisons were built almost exclusively underground, with tight and claustrophobic passageways and cells. Prisoners themselves were held either in simple cells or chained to the walls, for life or for time. As slavery was accepted norm in those days, majority of prisoners that were not sentenced to death were sold as slaves or used by the Roman government as workforce. One of the most famous uses for the slaves in Roman Empire was as “gladiators”. In addition to fighting in the arena (sometimes after lifetime of training in the special gladiator training houses, or Luduses), many slaves were tasked as a support workforce that enabled smoother run of the popular gladiator business. The most famous Gladiator battleground, the mighty ColosseumArena in Rome had a slave army of 224 slaves that worked daily as a power source of the complicated network of 24 elevators that transported gladiators and their wild animal opponents from the underground dungeons to the arena floor.
Credit : http://www.prisonhistory.net