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Devereaux Kennedy

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Out of Time: The Curtis-Wells Anomaly and the History of American Corrections

Devereaux Kennedy attempts to evaluate the significance of the reform school regimes of E.M.P. Wells and Joseph Curtis. Kennedy examines the utilitarian correctional theory and practice dominant in the U.S. during the 1820s and 1830s and the Progressive approach to corrections that held sway during the first two decades of the 20th century. The author concludes that the correctional methods of Curtis and Wells failed to become institutionalized on a wide scale during their tenure because they did not fit with the utilitarian ideology and the disciplinary techniques favored by the ante- bellum reformers who controlled correctional institutions. It was not so much that the correctional institutions and schools of that period were designed to train a work force for capitalists as it was that those in charge of policy were convinced that the manufactory, the prison, the reform school, and the school should be based on the same disciplinary techniques, which stressed orderliness, obedience, and habits of industry, including constant drill and repetition to facilitate the performance of specific tasks in prescribed ways at assigned times. Many of Curtis and Wells’ correctional techniques and practices, such as individualization of treatment, taking initiative, and encouraging self-expression were, however, later reinvented by Progressive reformers.

juvenile correctional institutions; youth and law

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 22, No. 1 (1995): 123-138

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