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Prison/Asylum Reform

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Sydney George

on 10 November 2014

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Transcript of Prison/Asylum Reform

Prison/Asylum Reform
The Prison reform took place in the mid 1800s, it was an act to help improve conditions for ill and imprisoned within the walls of prisons in an attempt for a more effective penal system.
Prison Reform
Dorthea Dix, a humanitarian and reformer in the 1800s, toured the prisons at this time and saw the abusive behaviors towards the mentally ill and wanted to put an end to it, which was the main cause of the reform. She felt as though it was inappropriate for the mentally ill to be held in prisons with prisoners.
Dorthea Dix was the main advocate for the prison reform. She did her research on the prisons and fought for those who were imprisoned strictly because of mental problems. She fought for humane hospitals. Another advocate was Louis Dwight, who was the founder of the Boston Prison Discipline Society, which spread the Auburn system (a method in which people would work in the day and were kept in solitary confinement at night). Dr. John Galt created the first psychiatric asylum and planned to experiment with different drugs and try to help the mentally ill. Francis Lieber also contributed to the reform by helping to add stuff to the prisons to make it more humane, such as add libraries.
This reform disregarded gender and race, unlike most reforms at the time. Dix and others involved in the Reform did not believe that prisons were places where people should be punished, but where they should think about their crimes. Strategies used for the reform movement were called penitentiary movements. The use of the Pennsylvania System ade prisoners repent while they lived in complete solitary confinement and worked in their cells all day. The Auburn system was also used, which made prisoners work in groups during the day and stay in solitary confinement only at night.
The outcomes of the reform were that prisons were used more as a source of repentance rather than punishment. There were less whippings and beatings and humane institutions for the mentally ill were enforced. Dorthea Dix ended up founding over 30 mental hospitals.
Primary Sources
This photograph shows the inside of a "House of a correction" which was very similar to a prison at the time, housing mentally ill and those who committed crimes. This picture was illustrated around the same time as the reform took place and I can imagine it does a good job of capturing the chaos within a place like the prisons. The illustrator is unknown. It was said to have been illustrated in 1763 and if you look closely, you can see the obviously ill men, for example, the man drawing pictures on the wall and you can distinguish those who are
not ill.
"I consider it in the highest degree improper that they should be allowed to range the towns and country without care or guidance; but this does not justify the public in any State or community, under any circumstances or conditions, in committing the insane to prisons; in a majority of cases the rich may be, or are sent to Hospitals; the poor under the pressure of this calamity, have the same just claim upon the public treasury, as the rich have upon the private purse of their family as they have the need, so have they the right to share the benefits of Hospital treatment. Urgent cases at all times, demand, unusual and ready expenditures in every community." -Dorothea Dix
The quotation above is said by Dorothea Dix in her memorial to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1848 prior to building the Mental Hospital. Dix is obviously biased after visiting prisons and seeing the brutal treatment within the walls of the prison. She is addressing the need for the insane asylums so that the ill can recieve the constant care they need.
The picture above shows a representation of the Auburn System. It shows prisoners working in groups outside of the prison. This picture was an engraving made in 1855, the illustrator is unknown.
This illustration was created by a former prisoner who views the prison in a very negative way and is obviously biased after receiving brutal treatment.
This illustration shows what one of the experiments Dr. John Galt used on mental patients looked like. As you can see, the patient is tied up and restrained. I'm not sure of the purpose for this mechanism but it was one of the many tests done in an effort to help these mentally ill.
Works Cited
"11.8 Dorothea Dix Pleads for a State Mental Hospital." Dorothea Dix Pleads for a State Mental Hospital. North Carolina Digital History, n.d. Web.
Akrofl, Sophia. "Panopticism." Web log post. N.p., n.d. Web.
"History of United States Prison Systems." N.p., 24 Oct. 2014. Web.
"New York's Black Sites." The Nation. N.p., n.d. Web.
"Prison and Asylum Reform." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web.
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