Prison Reform

Prison Reform

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  • 1841, At a Massachusetts Prison
  • These conditions must be harsh. 
  • Yeah it's horrible here.
  • This is bizarre, these people deserve care and treatment.
  • In 1841, a Boston women named Dorothea Dix agreed to teach Sunday school at a jail. Dix was scared to see many prisoners bound in chains and locked in cages. What Dix saw that day changed her life forever. Dix devoted herself to finding out the answer to her own question?
  • I'm coming to say how unfair it is for children and mentally ill people to stay in those prisons. The kids need their own jail and the mentally ill people need care and treatment.
  • How about this, we'll vote to create public asylums for the mentally ill.
  • There were a lot of problems Dorothea Dix wanted to solve within the prison. Children accused of minor crimes were jailed with adult criminals where the conditions were bad everywhere.
  • This is great, now the mentally ill are getting the treatment they need, but I still want to figure out where the children who committed crimes a better place to stay. 
  • What shocked Dix the most of all was the way mentally ill people were treated. Most were locked in dirty, crowded prison cells and if they misbehaved, they were whipped.
  • This is a special prison in Boston, Massachusetts for children who are in trouble.
  • For two years, Dix gathered information about the terrible things she saw at the Jail. Then she prepared a very detailed report for the Massachusetts state legislature.
  • Dix visited prisons in other states as well. After she prepared reports for humane treatment for the mentally ill, those states also created special mental hospitals.
  • Dix continued campaigning for prison reform for the rest of her life. When Dix died in 1887, state governments no longer put kids in prison.  Most states created a special justice system for children in trouble. Dix showed that reformers could lead society to make significant changes.
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