An Experimental Prison

Posted: June 21, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , ,

razor wireWe are used to thinking of a prison as building with lots of security around it. But one small town in Vermont tried something different. The sheriff put the men to work in the community. At first no one hired them, but slowly he was able to build trust and he found jobs for the men. They were often unsupervised, walking freely in the community. After four years, he had an amazing record – only two out of eight hundred prisoners had left without permission. Those two were recaptured and sent to a much tougher prison.

The prisoners walked among the citizens and worked for many of them. They laid sewer pipe, did farm work and odd jobs. They returned to the jail at night.

At first the townspeople were against this project, but slowly the sheriff won them over.

Was this some modern Norwegian idea of prison? Did it happen in 2011, very up to date? No, it happened one hundred years ago in Vermont, USA. It was reported in the August 1911 edition of The Atlantic Monthly.Atlantic Monthly

What worries me about this story is that I like to believe we are making progress as human beings. I’m an optimist. I think things are getting better. But here I’m wrong. Plain wrong. This is very upsetting.

A friend sent me the story from The Atlantic Monthly. If you’d like to read it, I’ll email it to you. Imagine….1911.

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