Prison Reform Movement

Prison Reform Movement

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  • Hello, I am Dorothea Dix. How did you end up here?
  • I didn't pay my bills. I'm in 10 dollars of debt.
  • That landed you in jail!?!?
  • Yes, and I am treated like regular prisoners.
  • How are the conditions in the prison?
  • You mean besides the fact that they are filthy?
  • Yes.
  • In 1841 Dorothea Dix, a teacher and author, agreed to teach at a Sunday school that was in a jail.
  • That's horrible!!!
  • Yes, it is...
  • Well most prisoners are treated unfairly.
  • Many of the people in jail were debtors who had less than 20 dollars in debt.
  • I will try to do what I can to help people like you.
  • Thank you! You don't know what this means to me.
  • The conditions at the prisons were horrible. There were physical punishments, and children were housed in the same cells as adult criminals. The cells were basically cages.
  • Good bye, it was nice meeting you.
  • Thank you, bye.
  • Dix was a reformer, and along with a group of prisoners, they sought to make the jails more humane by starting the Prison Reform Movement. They worked to improve prisons from the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
  • After visiting the prison, Dix was inspired. She and the reformers created libraries and schools to help the children. The reformers started the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, and visited different facilities.
  • Dix made a difference before she died in 1887. She gave speeches, enlightening lawmakers on the conditions of prisons, and in turn, convincing lawmakers to create public asylums for the mentally ill. State governors no longer put debtors in prison. Most states created special justice systems for children and outlawed cruel punishments, all of which, still applies today.
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