The name is also a reference to Panoptes from Greek mythology; he was a giant with a hundred eyes and thus was known to be a very effective watchman.
The design consists of a circular structure with an "inspection house" at its centre, from which the manager or staff of the institution is able to watch the inmates.
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The scheme of the design is to allow all (pan-) inmates of an institution to be observed (-opticon) by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.
The inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter of the structure, are unable to see through their cells.
Bentham conceived the basic plan as being equally applicable to hospitals, schools, sanatoriums, and asylums, but he devoted most of his efforts to developing a design for a Panopticon prison.
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