A Germ of Goodness: The California State Prison System, 1851-1944

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U of Nebraska Press, 1991 - Law - 150 pages
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For most of the ninety-three years between 1851, when the California State Legislature faced the problem of what to do with criminals, until 1944, when it finally organized the state's four prisons into one adult penal system, the prisons at San Quentin and Folsom were the only places of incarceration for the state's felons. Bookspan traces the development of a system emphasizing deterrence and retribution to one receptive to reform and rehabilitation. "This is the story," writes Bookspan, "of the penury and personality struggle through which California developed a prison system to assess, and to address, individual needs while retaining its custodial institutions. It is a story of the West, even though eastern penology, with all of its overtones of moral duty, provided the language for prison reform. In a state where chaos preceded the assertion of normative rule, fear, not hope, formed the governing principle of penology. It is a story of America because true reform on an expanded sense of individual potential."

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About the author (1991)

Shelley Bookspan is the editor of The Public Historian and is on the editorial board of Environmental History, a publication of the Forest History Society and the American Society for Environmental History. She teaches courses in public history at the University of California, Santa Barbara and founded PHR Environmental Consultants, Inc., now part of IT Group, Inc.

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