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Prison Reform Movement Analysis

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In the first half of the nineteenth century, America saw a new era of popular politics that disregarded the traditional leadership role of the more affluent members of society (Faragher 431). White manhood suffrage had become universal, and more people were becoming involved in politics. With this development of mass politics came a country-wide debate over what a democracy should look like in the first half of the nineteenth century. While some (mainly free white adult males) were content, others continued to be excluded from the political process and were regularly ignored by politicians. In protest, groups began to organize reform movements to expand the reach of democracy, pushing for things such as free public education, a more effective…show more content…
During this time period, there was a large controversy over the purpose of prison – was it for punishment or atonement? After the war of 1812, there was a small campaign to put children who had committed crimes in juvenile detention centers rather than jails. However, that was not the biggest reform movement directed at the prison system at the time. Dorothea Dix and several others, including Francis Lieber and Samuel Gridley Howe, began to take action and revise the American Prison System. Their goal was simple: to transform prisons into ones that reformed rather than incarcerated their inmates (Faragher 440). They were successful, for places such as New York, Auburn, and Ossining started to implement a new, more rehabilitative system. In fact, Pennsylvania had built two of the best prisons in America, where inmates could exercise in their own cells, have meals delivered to them, and never come in contact with another inmate (Modern Prison History). Although these new prisons were supposed to rehabilitate their inmates, they more often caused despair and depression (Faragher…show more content…
Abolitionism had been quite a popular idea after the Revolution, but started to fade in the early 1800s. It wasn’t until white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison resurged the movement with release of his newspaper, The Liberator. He and many others, including Frederick Douglass, demanded equal rights for African Americans, and condemned slavery as a sinful practice. They sought immediate emancipation, but many were opposed to their cause (mostly the South). Garrison founded a couple organizations to expand the movement, but his efforts were futile. Southern congressmen issued what was called “the gag rule”, which prohibited discussion of abolitionist petitions. Thankfully, most of the nation resented the gag rule, as they recognized that it threatened free speech. It wasn’t until 1840 that the first anti-slavery political party, the Liberty Party, was formed. For the majority of abolitionists, this new party opened a big window for action. Among the abolitionists were women who started to realize the “social constraints of their activism” (Faragher
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