In the article “History from the inside out: Prison Life in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts”, Larry Goldsmith has attempted to provide a detailed history of prison life and prison system during the 19th century. In particular, he takes the case at Charleston, New York, as an example of how American prison system has evolved. For instance, it shows the behaviour of prisoners, it describes the behaviour of wardens as well as the impact of political and social leadership on the prison system. It is worth noting that, Goldsmith bases his argument on two critical issues, in particular, the behaviour of prisoners and its impact on the evolution of the institution, as well as the education system provided to the prisoners and its impact on the evolution of the institution1.
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Starting with the prisoner behaviour, the author draws historical information from various records, especially those written by prison management, prison wardens and some from prisoners themselves2. For instance, prisoners who were assigned to work in prison factories and industries, such as clothing, shoe manufacturing and carpentry found their ways of developing their own items for trade.
Others sold food in exchange of money, liquor, tobacco and other items3. In conclusion, it must be highlighted that Goldsmith uses two themes to develop his argument. He argues that, the evolution of American prison system is a product of efforts made to curb prisoner misbehaviour and provision of education services to the inmates.
In conclusion, Goldsmith presents his thesis based on two broad arguments. First, he argues that changes in New York prison system were driven by the need to change the behaviour of prisoners and their wardens. Secondly, the need to educate prisoners brought several changes in the system, which helped improve the knowledge and experience of prisoners before they were released.
Goldsmith, Larry. “History from the inside out: Prison Life in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts.” Journal of Social History 31, no. 1 (1997): 109-125.
- Larry, Goldsmith, “History from the inside out: Prison Life in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts,” Journal of Social History 31, no. 1 (1997): 112.
- Goldsmith, 114.
- Goldsmith, 118.