The Costs of Justice: Ideology, Efficiency, and Criminal Justice Reform
29 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2015
Date Written: September 2013
For several decades now, the history of American criminal justice, and penal reform in particular, has revolved around questions of ideology. The “real” history of the birth of the prison, often told as a tale of idealism sullied by darker, unspoken intentions, remains an area of uncertainty and conflict for legal historians. This paper takes a detour around these issues in search of a different perspective by looking at the on-the-ground experience of the early days of criminal justice reform in post-Revolutionary New York. In this story, prisons were born in a mood of optimism quickly dampened by the realities of rising costs and red-inked ledgers.
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