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  • 1841
  • Do you always treat mentally ill people so terribly?
  • Yes, they need to be punished!
  • The Prison Reform Movement A Boston woman named Dorothea Dix witnessed something that changed her life forever. Dorothea was horrified to see that prisoners were bound in chains and locked in cages while she was teaching Sunday school at a jail. Children that were accused of minor thefts were jailed with adult crimes.
  • They shouldn't punish you guys, you need to be cared for.
  • She wondered if conditions were this bad everywhere, and she devoted herself to finding out the answer by visiting jails and prisons all over Massachusetts. She also visited debtor's prison, where prisoners weren't allowed to earn money to pay debts, therefore they stayed imprisoned for years.
  • 1887
  • The thing that shocked Dorothea the most was how mentally ill people were treated. Most were locked in dirty, crowded prison cells. Dorothea, along with other reformers, believed that the mentally ill needed to be cared for, not punished.
  • Finally, society is changing!
  • After the jury's deliberation, cruel punishments will be outlawed.
  • In Massachusetts, there was only one private asylum, or hospital for the mentally ill. Only the wealthy could afford it, and even so, it was overflowing.
  • They treat us like we aren't people.
  • Dorothea had been gathering information for two years about the horrors she had seen. Then she wrote a detailed report to the state legislature demanding humane treatment for the mentally ill. Dorothea campaigned for prison reform for the rest of her life, and by the time she died in 1887, the government no longer put debtors in prison.
  • Without Dorothea's hard work, states would not have created special justice systems for troubled children, and cruel punishments wouldn't have been outlawed, such as branding people. Dorothea showed that reformers were able to make significant changes that would create a better society.
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