Norfolk Prison Colony Collection, 1932-1934

MS 074

1 box (0.25 linear feet)

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Overview

In the late 1920s, the sociologist and prisoner reformer Howard Belding Gill proposed building a "model community prison" at Norfolk, Mass., that would represent a radical new approach to dealing with crime and punishment. Integrating social work and sociological theory into the workings of the prison system, Gill reasoned that it would be possible to diagnose and treat the root problems that led to crime and redirect inmates toward constructive behaviors. Built by inmates themselves, the prison opened in 1932, but with opponents decrying the experiment as a "country club" that coddled prisoners, Gill was forced from the superintendency within just two years.

The collection consists of several drafts of a manuscript by a supporter of Gill's, Thomas O'Connor, that was intended for publication in The Survey magazine, along with associated correspondence and photographs. Although The Survey's editor, Arthur Kellogg, was sympathetic enough to pass through several drafts and seek opinions widely, the manuscript appears to have been rejected so as not to cause the governor undue political problems.

Collection Details

Language

English

Location

Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Information on Use

Restrictions on Access
The collection is open for research.
Howard B. Gill and daughter Joan at State House hearings on Norfolk Prison Colony
Howard B. Gill and daughter Joan at State House hearings on Norfolk Prison Colony