Prison Reform Movement

"In addition to
House of Refuge - New York
the problems in asylums, prisons were filled to overflowing with everyone who gave offense to society from committing murder to spitting on the street. Men, women, children were thrown together in the most atrocious conditions. Something needed to be done — but what?

Until the 19th century, juvenile offenders were passed into the custody of their parents. During the time of prison and asylum reform, juvenile detention centers like the House of Refuge in New York were built to reform children of delinquent behavior.

After the War of 1812, reformers from Boston and New York began a crusade to remove children from jails into juvenile detention centers. But the larger controversy continued over the purpose of prison — was it for punishment or penitence? In 1821, a disaster occurred in Auburn Prison that shocked even the governor into pardoning hardened criminals. After being locked down in solitary, many of the eighty men committed suicide or had mental breakdowns. Auburn reverted to a strict disciplinary approach. The champion of discipline and first national figure in prison reform was Louis Dwight. founder of the Boston Prison Discipline Society, he spread the Auburn system throughout America's jails and added salvation and Sabbath School to further penitence."

Progressive Movement - This website is a great overview of the time when most reform movements took place. It will help you understand the context of the movements and also give you some insight into their success or failure. A great place to get some ideas for icons to use. (Note the orange tabs at the top which have links to useful information.)

Key terms to guide your search:
  • Convict labor
  • Probation
  • Penology
  • Recidivism
  • Rehabilitation (crime)
  • U.S. Justice Dept.
  • Auburn System (1820)
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons

Excellent source available from Mr. McVay
Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 22 (1984) pg. 619—623 (good general overview)

Other sources to try: