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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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."

Excerpt

This book grew out of my desire to know more about the interaction between ideas and the physical world. My quest was not so much Cartesian as Mumfordian. I wanted to understand the relationships among attitudes, vision, planning, reality, and change, and prisons seemed to be places subject to all of these forces. Admittedly, when I began my study I felt some despair about the mutability of institutions, however dysfunctional, once they were monumentalized in granite or brick. My initial prejudice meant I would accept nothing less than that razing of the old prisons as evidence of change. Indeed, I still have no doubt that structure and infrastructure represent insidiously potent obstacles to achieving a grand, new world. Through the course of this work, though, I have had to learn to recognize when subtle changes are meaningful; I have had to learn to respect the slow and unsteady process of reevaluation that eventually underwrites reform. in studying change I have changed, and this has made the endeavor worthwhile for me.

Writing this book has been essentially a solitary task, but not a lonely one, thanks to the support and assistance of friends and colleagues. Rebecca Conard offered me welcome companionship during much of the research. Missy McDonald and Jamie Calhoun cheerfully and ably assisted me, especially with my newspaper research. Jamie also prepared the line drawings for the book. Patricia Cline Cohen and Karen Smith painstakingly read my early drafts and suggested many improvements, most of which I have had the sense to make. Robert Cashier and Ronald Nye, my associates at phr Environmental, nobly endured my times of distraction. Paula Juelke Carr earned my special gratitude. in addition to preparing the index, Paula helped me find obscure biographical information, and she searched many a dusty haunt for photographs and illustrations. John R. Wunder, general editor of the Law in the American West series, invited me to submit my manuscript, and he recommended some crucial revisions (as well as publication).

Without doubt I also appreciate those who supported me less directly but with great regularity. My mother, Norma Schwartzberg, is proud of me. the quadrupeds in my life, Morpheus, Daisy, and Poppy, saw me through all stages of frustration and did their best to get me away from the computer when I needed a break. Mark Bookspan, my espoused, was, well, helpful, and it's not just because he brought me coffee.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.