Which Warden Presented The Most Realistic Vision Of How Sing Sing Should Operate? Was This Also The Best Vision? Why?

1113 words - 5 pages

In late 1800s, American Prisons grew bigger and bigger to accommodate the growing crime problem. Inmate population increased over time and wardens had to take measures in order to discipline the prisoners. Especially in Sing Sing, which is the third state prison of New York, various methods to handle prisoners were applied from "Silent System" to "Mutual Welfare League". The creators of these methods believed in what they did, but there is still a controversy about their appropriateness. When we examine the history of Sing Sing, three wardens seem to be conspicuous: Elam Lynds, Thomas Mott Osborne and Lewis Lawes. Although all of them blazed trails in different ways, the most realistic one ...view middle of the document...

The first is "Incapacitation", which means that offenders between walls cannot damage the people outside. The Second, "Deterrence", means that the fear of being imprisoned deters some people who have a tendency to commit a crime. Then comes "Retribution or Expiation" which can be defined in terms of ethics: The criminal should be punished so that he will understand the victim's situation and that forms the concept of justice. But in addition, a prison is reformative as well because prisons should be educational and socially adaptive (2, 3). Lynds' operation, however, did not include any reformation. Briefly, his ideology was neither realistic nor ideal, despite of the point of view in 19th century.Almost simultaneously with the turn of the century, the prison system began to be modernized with an incredible speed. Thomas Mott Osborne, who was the son of a wealthy family and well educated, was appointed warden of Sing Sing in late 1914. His opinions for providing discipline were completely contrary to Lynds'. Through a special arrangement, Osborne had spent a week as a prisoner in Auborn Prison and that week helped him to form his ideas. He became famous by saying "It is liberty alone that fits men for liberty" (Conover 20) and installing a Mutual Welfare League whereby prisoners were to assume a portion of their own government in the institution. Osborne contended that self government was the practical remedy of the prison system. He always stressed the need to educate rather than punish prisoners. So, reformation appeared here as a purpose of prison and set up a bridge to the modern era of prisons.Osborne really had progressive opinions, but he was unrealistic for early 1900s. His career in Sing Sing ended because of being charged with indulging the inmates. According to Republican governor, he allowed the inmates to increase their voice too much. Moreover, Osborne never wanted to give capital punishments such as electrocution. His idealistic methods made some people angry, and he was urged to resign before his first...

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