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NCJ Number: 78317 Find in a Library
Title: Revising Conceptions About the Origin of Prisons - The Importance of Economic Considerations
Journal: Social Science Quarterly  Volume:62  Issue:2  Dated:(June 1981)  Pages:247-258
Author(s): J A Conley
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 12
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Findings are reported from a study that examined the economic considerations that influenced Oklahoma's decision to construct its first State prison.
Abstract: The historical period under study is 1890 through 1920. During this time, Oklahoma developed from a Federal territory to a State. The study shows that economic considerations played a far more significant role in shaping the State's response to the prison issue than did penological theory, legal and moral issues, or public scandals of penal corruption and brutality. The penitentiary was to play a major role in the State's plan to provide efficient government and serve as a catalyst for industrial expansion. First, through their commitment to an industrial prison, State officials assumed they could show that governmental agencies should be self-supporting and, in some cases, even earn a profit. They believed that the inmates could and would work for the benefit of the State. Inmates had helped build the institution and now they would work in prison factories to pay for the cost of their incarceration. In addition, if the State could operate income-producing industrial prisons, the message to the general community would be that the manufacturing potential for the State was without limit. The industrial prison was to serve as a model for industrial growth. Oklahoma is not a unique example of how overriding economic considerations influenced penal policy in the Western States. Recent case studies on Louisiana (Carleton, 1971) and Kansas (Hougen, 1977) and a survey of Western States (McKelvey, 1977) suggest that the origin of prisons and prison developments are manifestations of larger economic forces. Thirty-six references are listed.
Index Term(s): Economic analysis; Oklahoma; Prison construction
Note: Earlier version of this paper was presented at the meeting of the Western Society of Criminology, 1980.
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