Prison Reform of the U.S


During the Prison Reform of the U.S (1830s1850s) prisoners were treated better than before because they had less severe punishment.

During the Prison Reform of the U.S (1830s1850s) the amount of debtors prisons were reduced significantly.

The prison reform movement attempted to improve prison conditions, soften punishments, and make rehabilitation of inmates the primary focus of the prison instead of punishment. This system, called the Auburn system, replaced older practices of punishment in response to enlightenment ideals and even spread to Europe. Debtors prisons gradually disappeared as state legislatures abolished them. This movement was important because it led to later reforms in prisons creating the ones we have today.

The Auburn System is a method in which prisoners worked during the day in groups and were kept in solitary confinement at night, with enforced silence at all times. This picture is the Sing Sing penitentiary, which also followed the Auburn System.

This primary source document is of a prisoner who lived in the Auburn prison. The Auburn prison  was different in many ways from the other prisons at its time. The prison was designed with small cells specifically for sleeping and not work.  Auburn prison was controlled by a board of five inspectors.

Previous punishments were quite severe. Minor crimes were enforced with public whippings. Some prisoners were known to die in jail due to neglect and over punishment. During the reform time, whippings were not used as punishment anymore and the number of capital offenses was also reduced. The Auburn system was introduced during the prison reform time, the first prison to use the Auburn system was Auburn prison. Auburn prisons first warden was William Brittin, appointed in 1818.

When the Auburn system was fairly new, the prisoners were negativly effected. Criminals were  subjected to solitary confinement as a means of punishment. The new Auburn systems planning was not great. The Auburn system took a turn after numerous criminals attempted suicide.

Whigs liked the Auburn system because the systems goals were to rehabilitate criminals by teaching them personal discipline and respect for work, property, and other people.

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