Colvin 1997

From Whiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Colvin, Mark. Penitentiaries, ?Reformatories, and Chain Gangs: Social Theory and the History of Punishment in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: St Martin's Press, 1997.

Rival Theories


  • society held together by moral concsensus, or collective conscience, a common set of beliefs contributing to social solidarity
  • social solidarity created by moral integration (with the force of collective conscience) and societal regulation (with the force of norms)
  • "Punishment is an expression of the collective c onscience. Acts of punishment are atttempts at reinforcing and regenerating the shared values and normative conventions that sustain social solidarity. THus punishment can be understood as a process that strengthens the moral and normative order." (9)


  • punishment is a tool used to regulate labor, esp surplus labor
  • during an econmic townturn, criminal populations are "threats" subject to several penal sanctions; during economic upswing, "criminal populations are seen as exploitable economic resources, whose treatment as prisoners is generally aimed at reform and reintegration into society's labor force."

Foucault (18-22)


  • children begin being treated as a special class of citizens protected from violence in 16c
  • they grow up without violence and thus are more shocked by violent punishments and begin to call for "civilized" reform
  • punishment then becomes more and more hidden

From Colonies to Early Republic: The Rise of the Penitentiary in the Northeast

most of America's colonial population was rural, living a subsistence life; punishmen overseen by local magistrates, usually not sever but aimed toward shaming

shift from moral crimes to property crimes in the 18c, from both change in values (rising interest in enforcing the market's property relationships) and rise in transient population from immigration

increasing state power after 1700s in America; the penitentiary emerged as "a visible symbol of state power at a time when such power was in doubt" (47)

new religious movements -- "the inventors of the penitentiary were convinced of the righteousness of their effors" (47)

"penitentiary": term first used in English Penitentiary Act in 1779

penitentiaries draw their punishment methods from ecclesiastical institutions like monasteries