Docile Bodies, Model Citizens : The Role of Religious Reformers in Nineteenth Century Prison Reform
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Throughout this SIP, I will analyze the role of religion in the construction and management of prisons in the nineteenth century. The first chapter will explore the birth of the penitentiary in America, providing historical context to the American culture of punishment in the earlier eighteenth century. Such historical contexts allow a better understanding for religious groups’ involvement in prison reform. Here, I will examine approaches used by the Quaker and Calvinist reformers and introduce Eastern State Penitentiary and Auburn State Prison. These prisons, established by each religious group respectively, aimed to produce the right conditions for the redemption of the soul to flourish. The methods used to achieve such a redemption are a point of divergence for Quakers and Calvinists. The foundational differences between the two shall be discussed in this chapter. The second chapter will go in-depth analyzing the both the architectural and day-to-day structure of Eastern State Penitentiary and Auburn State Prison. As mentioned earlier, my intention in this SIP is to have us consider the prison not just as a place, but as an experience. Such experience is facilitated through the establishment of routine, the disciplining of bodies, through labor and through solitude. In this portion, I will approach both prisons with a Foucauldian lens and discuss how both aimed to produce what the French philosopher Michel Foucault described as ‘docile bodies.’ The production of docile bodies, I argue, was preparation for the release of former criminals into society, where reformers hoped they would live lives as model citizens. My final chapter will examine the way religious prison reform led to the rise of the for-profit prison industry, bringing us towards the twenty-first century. I will examine how the for-profit prison industry molds and legitimizes certain behaviors to continue defining what a model citizen should be in a hyper-capitalist society.
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