Prison and Mental Health Reforms

Savana Smith, Allison Rape, and Taylor Dillon

Who was Dorothea Dix?

Dorothea Dix worked with state legislatures to provide funding for statewide mental hospitals with professional staff and treatment. Said the mental insane were chained, beaten with rods, caged, put in closets, cellars, stalls and pens.

Dr. John Galt

1841 marked the beginning of the superintendence of Dr. John Galt at Eastern Lunatic Asylum, in Williamsburg, Virginia, the first publicly supported psychiatric hospital in America. Dr. Galt had many revolutionary ideas about treating the insane, based on his conviction that they had dignity. Among his enlightened approaches were the use of drugs, the introduction of "talk therapy" and advocating outplacement rather than lifelong stays.
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The Prison Reform

In the mid-nineteenth century, imprisonment was used as punishment for serious crimes, but legislatures wouldn't agree to finance criminal institutions, which caused for the managers of these institutions to create a more acceptable environment in such industries. Employment rates for prisoners declined, and because they didn't have the necessary funds, prisons began to fall apart. Prisons were instructed to rehabilitate inmates instead of just holding them as prisoners, and new prisons were called "reformatories" or "correctional facilities" for this reason. Eventually, prisons were just places for as many prisoners to be held possible. Because there were so many prisoners, it was chaotic, and guards had to use torture to keep them in line.

Auburn System

A penal method of the 19th century in which prisoners worked during the day in groups and were kept in solitary confinement at night, with enforced silence at all times

Modern Day Prison Reform

Fifty Years of Prison Service outlined an ideal prison system: Prisoners should support themselves in prison though industry, in anticipation of supporting themselves outside prison; outside businesses and labor must not interfere; indeterminate sentences were required, making prisoners earn their release with constructive behavior, not just the passage of time; and education and a Christian culture should be imparted. Nevertheless, opposition to prison industries and labor increased. Finally, U.S. law prohibited the transport of prison-made goods across state lines. Most prison-made goods today are only for government use—but the state and federal governments are not required to meet their needs from prison industries. Although nearly every prison reformer in history believed prisoners should work usefully, and several prisons in the 1800s were profitable and self-supporting, most American prisoners today do not have productive jobs in prison

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The Mental Health Care Reform

The Mental Health Care Reform outlined the way mental patients and mentally disabled people should be treated by doctors.
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  • When the Sing Sing Prison would run the electric chair the surrounding towns electricity would turn off
  • 1 in 4 adults has a mental illness
  • The United States spends $113 billion on mental health treatment a year
  • The US prison population is more than 2.4 million
  • 93% of people in prison are male; 7% are female
  • Women who are pregnant in prison give birth there then they are required to give their child up for adoption or send to a relatives care


  1. "Prison and Asylum Reform." Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
  2. "Prisons and Asylums - Boundless Open Textbook." Boundless. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
  3. Evans, Robert. "5 Things Movies Don't Tell You About Mental Institutions." N.p., 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
  4. Kliff, Sarah. "Seven Facts about America’s Mental Health-care System."Washington Post. The Washington Post, 12 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.