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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78497 Find in a Library
Title: Effects of 'Prison Reform' - The Arkansas Case Study (From Prisoners' Rights Sourcebook, P 467-475, 1980, Ira P Robbins, ed. - See NCJ-78483)
Author(s): T Murton
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 9
Sponsoring Agency: Clark Boardman Company, Ltd
New York, NY 10014
Sale Source: Clark Boardman Company, Ltd
435 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This chapter from a sourcebook on prisoners' rights discusses the humanistic reform efforts in Arkansas during Rockefeller's governorship and subsequent legalistic attempts at reform.
Abstract: Prior to the 1967-1968 reform, Arkansas penal farms resembled slave labor camps; flogging, beating, torture devices, and inmate deaths were common. Prison administrators and other State officials had been involved in the sale of paroles, illegal use of prison labor, and theft, according to a 1966 Arkansas police report. After Rockefeller appointed a new prison superintendent, gross abuses were eliminated from the farms, more subtle reforms, such as inmate self-determination, participatory management, and efforts to develop inmate hope, emerged gradually. Inmates responded positively; no escapes, riots, or significant incidents of brutality occurred during the humanistic reform period. Local politicians and citizens who no longer benefited from the exploitive prison system objected to these efforts and Rockefeller lost the reelection campaign. Reform efforts then shifted to the legalistic approach. Various petitions were thus filed between 1968 and 1970 alleging that specific events occurring in Arkansas prisons had constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The Federal courts ruled that certain practices and acts had violated the Constitution. Today, Arkansas courts continue to review prison policies with a goal of reduction or elimination of lesser abuses, such as those relating to cell size or working conditions, but they have had minimal impact. They have also attempted to curb gross abuses, such as assaults and killings, but here, too, there has been little effect. The brief 13-month humanistic reform efforts accomplished more than any efforts made in the previous 100 years or in the decade of subsequent legalistic attempts. The chapter provides 31 notes.
Index Term(s): Abuse of authority; Arkansas; Correctional reform; Cruel and unusual punishment; Inmate grievances; Inmate staff relations; Murder; Penology; Prison disorders; Prisoner's rights
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