Co-Sponsored by the History Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and the Labor and Working Class History Association
Friday, November 12, 2004
3:00pm-5:00pm, The Newberry Library
Factories for Turning Out Criminals: Convict Labor, Torture, and the Invisible World of Prison Punishment in New York, 1860-1900
Timothy J. Gilfoyle, Loyola University Chicago
Nineteenth-century prisons were not enclosed systems of total surveillance, as argued by Michel Foucault and others. Penitentiaries were dynamic institutions with their own internal world that inmates and prison officials structured and shaped in their own ways in dramatic contrast to the original goals of penitentiary reformers. This essay offers a case study of nineteenth-century male imprisonment and attempts to move beyond "the creed and deed" treatment of prison history emphasizing the impact of reformers and administrators. Focusing upon Sing Sing, arguably the most famous penitentiary in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century United States, reveals a hidden history of how convicts, keepers, guards, contractors and prison officials shaped punishment. Rather than looking at the prison from the outside in, I want to present a vision from the inside out.
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