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Prisons: History

Propenitentiary And Antislavery

Another New England intellectual, physician Samuel Gridley Howe of Boston, published An Essay on Separate and Congregate Systems of Prison Discipline (1845) in which he defended the Pennsylvania system on the grounds that it was the purest approach. Like many persons involved in the propenitentiary movement, Howe also favored the abolition of chattel slavery in the South, which many condemned for its licentiousness and other abuses. Other social reformers in this circle included the Reverend Louis Dwight, Dorothea Lynde Dix, Isaac Hopper, and Horace Mann.

The system of chattel slavery, however, proved highly resistant to change. Although American involvement in the international slave trade had been ended in 1808, the domestic slave trade continued to flourish through the 1850s. Jails and slave pens were an integral part of both this continued slave trafficking and the relentless pursuit of fugitive and unruly slaves. Many slave auctions were held in jails and prisons. Abolitionists who had been caught trying to aid slaves to liberty were imprisoned alongside common criminals. In 1861, sectional conflict over slavery finally resulted in the bloody Civil War.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawPrisons: History - Early Jails And Workhouses, The Rise Of The Prisoner Trade, A Land Of Prisoners, Enlightenment Reforms