Prison and Mental Health Reform

By: Logan Young, Andrea Clyburn, Nate Burnett, Kailey Webb

Before Reformation

Before the reformation process of America's prisons and healthcare of mental patients, the state of the prisoners and prisons were horrible. There were no special locations for the insane as all of them were populated with the common prisoners. All of these people were placed in foul, small and smelly unsanitary caged rooms with barely any food and little to no water. Many prisoners and the mentally ill were lashed, beaten, stripped naked (women were usually sexually abused) and chained to walls. Many people thought the mentally insane were believed to be cursed by the Devil himself.

The Movement Proposed

A short time after The War of 1812, many reformers believed that changes needed to be done in the prison system. In 1821, a prison incident sparked the idea towards reformation. In Auburn, NY, 80 prisoners who had been contained in solitary confinement, had gone mentally insane or committed suicide. Many reformers believed that the insane needed to be separated from the common inmates, as treatment would be needed. State hospitals were also proposed to be expanded to fit the insane for their proper treatment. Propositions also included the creation of a Juvenile Detention halls for children, and better sanitation and better treatment for prisoners. Also reformers wanted to lower the overcrowding in prisons to help with the sanitation rates. Many ideas were rejected by the legislature due to the credibility of the information given by Dorothea Dix, and due to the tremendous cost of expanding hospitals and bobbing economy.

Important Prison and Mental Health Reformers

Steps Towards Reformation and Effect of Reformation

After the War of 1812, reformers in Boston and New York began the process of moving children into Juvenile Detention Centers, and the expansion of hospitals properly began. By 1880, over 123 mental hospitals had been established in America, and proper treatment had been provided for the insane. By the year 1835, the state of Pennsylvania had been considered to have two of the "best" prisons in the world. The reformation was a tremendous success, as reformers from Europe were looking at American prisons as the proper way to improve their own prison systems.

Modern Day Prison Reformation: The US Prison War on Drugs and Overcrowding

With less than 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population, the United States imprisons more people than any other country, many of them credited on drug charges. The "War on Drugs" established in the 1970s, was a statement made by the US to help stop drug use in the US. This "war" was considered a massive fail due to the fact the United States is still struggling with overcrowding in prisons. More than half of US federal inmates are incarcerated on drugs charges (95,800 inmates). In the early 2000s, every US state had a major prisoner increase. American prisons are extremely overcrowded, and tough in-crime laws placed in the 1980s and 1990s contribute heavily towards the growing US prison population, a problem since the Antebellum Reformation.



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