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Benevolent Repression: The Three Major Reformatory Systems - Term Paper Example

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The "Benevolent Repression: The Three Major Reformatory Systems" paper examines three systems that present a continuum of prisoner reform initiatives ranging from the ideological liberal in Elmira to the grudgingly conservative reform in Michigan. In practice, none of these systems worked.  …
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Benevolent Repression: The Three Major Reformatory Systems
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Download file to see previous pages The treatments are aimed at eliminating or minimizing the symptoms of the disease, or the cause of the disease, or the disease itself” (Duchan, 2001). Applied to criminals and their lives of crime, this meant looking at the underlying reasons why these individuals deviated from their natural role in life. The original system grew out of the 37 principles listed in the Declaration of Principles drafted in 1870 from the efforts of the first meeting of the National Congress on Penitentiary and Reformatory Discipline. “The Declaration of Principles called for individualized care based on ‘scientific treatment’ and the ‘medical model’. To foster reform, delegates recommended indeterminate sentencing, a carefully calculated mark, and classification system, intensive academic and vocational instruction, constructive labor, and humane disciplinary methods” (Pisciotta, 1994: 13). This concept further led to the founding ideals of the Elmira system and those that followed, that poor behavior was not simply a choice, but also caused by a variety of environmental, psychological and/or biological factors.

The Elmira system featured a three-stage ‘process of individualization”. Prisoners, ranging in age from 16-30, upon entering the system had a one-on-one interview with Zebulon Brockway, the warden, to determine the various reasons why the prisoner had engaged in crime. Then they were assigned to a class in school and given a work assignment and cell. The second stage of the system consisted of a highly structured day of activity for the duration of the prisoners’ stay. Prisoners woke in the early morning to eat and clean their cells, then went to work at their various ‘jobs’ for a regular 8-hour workday with a one-hour lunch break and a 30-minute dinner time scheduled as soon as work was finished. Interviews and special events were held after dinner and before school, which ended at 8:30 just before bedtime.  ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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