Coxsackie : the life and death of prison reform by Joseph F. Spillane

By Joseph F. Spillane

Should prisons test reform and uplift inmates or, via principled punishment, deter them from extra wrongdoing? This debate has raged in Western Europe and within the usa at the very least because the overdue eighteenth century.

Joseph F. Spillane examines the failure of revolutionary reform in long island nation by way of targeting Coxsackie, a brand new Deal prison outfitted for younger male offenders. Opened in 1935 to serve "adolescents adrift," Coxsackie as a substitute grew to become an volatile and brutalizing legal. From the beginning, the liberal impulse underpinning the prison’s undertaking was once crushed by way of demanding situations it used to be unequipped or unwilling to face―drugs, gangs, and racial conflict.

Spillane attracts on specific felony files to reconstruct a existence at the back of bars within which "ungovernable" younger males posed consistent demanding situations to racial and cultural order. the hot Deal order of the legal used to be risky from the beginning; the politics of punishment fast turned the politics of race and social exclusion, and efforts to avoid wasting liberal reform in postwar long island in simple terms deepened its mess ups. In 1977, inmates took hostages to concentration cognizance on their grievances. the end result was once stricter self-discipline and an finish to any pretense that Coxsackie used to be a reform institution.

Why did the criminal fail? For solutions, Spillane immerses readers within the altering tradition and racial make-up of the U.S. criminal process and borrows from experiences of colonial prisons, which emblematized efforts by means of an exploitative regime to impose cultural and racial restraint on others.

In today’s period of mass incarceration, prisons became conflict-ridden warehouses and strong symbols of racism and inequality. This account demanding situations the traditional knowledge that America’s criminal concern is of relatively contemporary classic, displaying as an alternative how a racial and punitive process of keep watch over emerged from the ashes of a innovative ideal.

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Although he and Osborne enjoyed the patronage of Navy Secretary Daniels and Assistant Secretary Roosevelt, they suffered from officers’ resentment of the “soft” treatment being meted out at Portsmouth. Near the end of their navy work, MacCormick warned Osborne of the animosity he and Daniels would face: “I can’t impress upon you too strongly how great and widespread the hostility to you is among officers. It is partly because of the way in which they despise the Secretary. There is no other way of describing their attitude toward him.

The surest way to reduce the margin of error is by a thorough presentence investigation. This should not only include complete information on the current offense and the offender’s previous criminal record, but also his family history, his personal history and community background, pertinent data from medical, psychiatric and psychological examinations, and so forth. 75 Without a coherent process, MacCormick argued, “the hapless delinquent is passed from one to another like lumber through various processing plants.

37 There are some echoes of Thorndike and Snedden in MacCormick’s admonition that educators should be on guard for wasting students’ time with “useless” or irrelevant subjects, and in his advice to modify educational programs based on the social situation of the student. From John Dewey, MacCormick absorbed the essentials of the early twentiethcentury “progressive education” movement. Two articles of faith in that movement were especially important to MacCormick: first, the pedagogical principle of “learning by doing,” and second, the democratic view that “culture,” rather than an elite preserve, could and should be made accessible to all because of its The Liberal Penal Imagination 23 inherently life- enhancing, morally uplifting qualities (the Deweyan notion of popularization without vulgarization).

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