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NCJ Number: 49878 Find in a Library
Title: OF PRISONS, ASYLUMS, AND OTHER DECAYING INSTITUTIONS
Journal: PUBLIC INTEREST  Volume:26  Dated:(WINTER 1972)  Pages:3-17
Author(s): D J ROTHMAN
Corporate Author: National Affairs, Inc
United States of America
Date Published: 1972
Page Count: 15
Sponsoring Agency: National Affairs, Inc
Washington, DC, 20036
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES AWAY FROM INCARCERATION AS A MEANS OF COPING WITH SOCIAL PROBLEMS REPRESENTED BY THE INSANE, THE CRIMINAL, THE ORPHANED, THE DELINQUENT, AND THE POOR IS TRACED.
Abstract: PRIOR TO THE 19TH CENTURY, COMMUNITIES RELIED UPON MECHANISMS OF CONTROL OTHER THAN INCARCERATION, DEVOTING THEIR EFFORTS TO DIFFERENTIATING BETWEEN NEIGHBOR AND STRANGER RATHER THAN TO ELIMINATING POVERTY OR REFORMING CRIMINALS. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT WAS A FREQUENTLY IMPOSED SANCTION, BUT THE COLONISTS RARELY INCARCERATED THE DEVIANT OR THE DEPENDENT. BEGINNING IN THE 1820'S, THE PERSPECTIVE ON BOTH POVERTY AND CRIME SHIFTED, AND PASSIVE ATTITUDES GAVE WAY TO A CONVICTION THAT POVERTY, CRIME, INSANITY, AND DELINQUENCY COULD BE ELIMINATED. REFORMERS MOVED ENTHUSIASTICALLY TO BUILD ASYLUMS FOR THE DEVIANT AND THE DEPENDENT. BETWEEN 1820 AND 1840, PENITENTIARIES AND INSANE ASYLUMS SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, AS DID ORPHAN ASYLUMS, HOUSES OF REFUGE FOR JUVENILE DELINQUENTS, AND ALMSHOUSES. IN ORIGIN, INCARCERATION WAS AN ATTEMPT TO PROVIDE A CORRUPTION-FREE ENVIRONMENT THAT WOULD COMPENSATE FOR THE IRREGULARITIES AND TEMPTATIONS THAT EXISTED IN THE COMMUNITY. AMERICAN ASYLUMS BECAME WORLD FAMOUS AS MODELS OF SOCIAL REFORM, BUT BY 1870 THE PROMISE OF REHABILITATION BY INCARCERATION HAD PROVED HOLLOW. ASYLUMS HAD BECOME PREOCCUPIED WITH CUSTODY AND SECURITY, NOT REHABILITATION. YET THE INSTITUTIONS MAINTAINED THEIR MONOPOLY OVER CORRECTIONS AND TREATMENT THROUGH THE 19TH CENTURY. BOTH THE FAILURE AND THE PERSISTENCE OF THE INSTITUTIONS CAN BE TRACED TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL THEORIES ON WHICH THEY WERE FOUNDED AND TO THE ETHNIC AND CLASS COMPOSITION OF THE INMATES. A SHIFT AWAY FROM INCARCERATION TOOK PLACE BETWEEN 1890 AND 1920. THE TREND TOWARD NONINSTITUTIONAL PROGRAMS WAS UNEVEN. CHANGES WERE MOST POPULAR AND COMPLETE WHERE CITIZENS' FEARS WERE LEAST INTENSE. THE NEW DEAL LEGISLATION OF THE 1930'S PUSHED THE TREND FURTHER. PRISONS CONTINUED TO EXIST, BUT THEIR 19TH-CENTURY MONOPOLY ENDED. DEVELOPMENTS IN PROBATION, PAROLE, AND COMMUNITY-BASED CORRECTIONS HAVE STIMULATED AND IN TURN HAVE BEEN FURTHERED BY LEGAL REFORMS INTENDED TO REDUCE DEPENDENCE ON INCARCERATION. THE MOVEMENT AWAY FROM INCARCERATION MUST AVOID EXAGGERATED EXPECTATIONS AND LOOK CLEARLY AT INDICATIONS OF THE PRISON'S LOSS OF LEGITIMACY AND OPERABILITY, A LOSS DEMONSTRATED IN THE ATTICA UPRISING. REFORMERS SHOULD SEEK SIMPLE, REALIZABLE GOALS. FUNDS SHOULD BE INVESTED IN PROBATION, PAROLE, BAIL REFORM, AND HALF-WAY HOUSES NOT BECAUSE THESE MEASURES CAN REDEEM CRIMINALS OR RID SOCIETY OF CRIME, BUT BECAUSE THEY WILL DO NO WORSE THAN INCARCERATION IN TERMS OF PREVENTION, AND BECAUSE THE PRICE IN HUMAN, FINANCIAL, AND SOCIAL COSTS WILL BE CONSIDERABLY LESS. (LKM)
Index Term(s): Alternatives to institutionalization; Incarceration; Reform
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=49878

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