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Prison Journal Special Issue Reflections: The History of Prisons and Punishment

NCJ Number
The Prison Journal Volume: 89 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2009 Pages: 1S-104S
Marianne Fisher-Giorlando
Date Published
March 2009
104 pages
This special issue of “The Prison Journal” aims to fill the current gap in research on the history of prisons and punishment.
The first featured article reviews the evolution of the use of imprisonment as punishment for various criminal or otherwise unacceptable behaviors. It makes the argument that prisons existed much earlier than is generally believed; however, their functional use as a regular means of punishment evolved over time. A second featured article is a historical review of mother-and-child programs for incarcerated women. The article notes that whether or not there were formal programs, children were found in prisons and jails alongside their mothers almost from the beginning of women’s imprisonment. The number and types of programs changed over time; however, they have been designed and managed to control women’s minds and bodies toward ends not freely chosen by the women. A third featured article uses prisoners’ self-expression through memoirs and songs in illustrating how prisoners from the era of Texas’ convict-leasing program (leasing prison labor to exploitative and abusive private employers) voiced their experiences and sought redress under this inhumane system. Prisoner writings and songs expose the institutional criminality of the State and its systemic inhumane policies toward those it imprisons. This theme is carried over into another article that draws a parallel between the simulated data from the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Abu Ghraib atrocities under the American military and intelligence personnel implementing prison management policy. The concluding article makes an argument about the dangers of developing and promoting community corrections built upon the failure of prisons to achieve their goals. It predicts the risk for failure of community corrections if they are based more on avoiding the adverse effects of imprisonment rather than developing positive features distinctive to community corrections. Article tables, figures, and references