In 1841 a woman from Boston named Dorothea Dix agreed to teach Sunday school at the jail. She was in the room when a couple of men walked in. She was surprised that some of them were stuck in cages and had chains covering their bodies.
The thought that was the worst to Dorothea was that children were accused and locked up for minor thefts. They were jailed up with adults wrapped with chains. She also noticed that the people in jail only had a minimum of $20. So, the people that were in jail for not paying their bills were going to stay in jail because they couldn't work to save up the money to repay their bills.
Dorothea traveled around Massachusetts visiting prisons teaching prisoners about school subjects.
Dix did not like how the mentally ill were treated. They were locked up in in dirty crowed prison cells. Dorothea wanted to change how they were being treated.
Dorothea visited prisoners and the mentally ill all over the states. After she visited these states she wrote reports she proved that it was a requirement to help the mentally ill. After she presented her ideas to the other states they opened up special mental hospitals.
Dix continued campaigning for prison reform for the rest of her life. When Dorothea died at age 85 the state government no longer put debtors in prison. A lot of the states that Dorothea visited had created a special justice system for children that are in trouble. Also after she died the prisons had outlawed cruel punishments like beating people with hot irons.