Imprisoning Chicago: Incarceration, The Chicago City Council, Prisoners, and Reform, 1832-1915
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The Chicago Bridewell and the Chicago House of Correction were unique institutions which illuminate the development of nineteenth-century city incarceration from a fluid to a rigid status. Both institutions detained misdemeanants and violators of city ordinances. They shared similarities with jails and prisons, but emerged as a hybrid institution: a city prison.
Physically and philosophically, city structures, and the inmates detained inside, shifted from being part of the city to one separate of Chicago and its residents. The Chicago City Council Proceeding Files, rarely used by historians, provide a rare glimpse into city leaders' administration of the carceral facilities. Economic concerns, rather than humanitarian impulse, emerged as paramount to the city council in constructing and administering both the Bridewell and the House of Correction. Additionally, the House of Correction grew with Chicago, becoming one of the largest institutions of its kind in the nation. The facility is important nationally also due to the renown in the emerging field of penal philosophy that some of the superintendents at the House of Correction achieved.
City leaders sought the professionalization of officials, a reliance on labor for discipline, and the eventual rise of Progressives who wanted to treat inmates, especially the women and the young, more individually. However, the two institutions also included some particular influences of Chicago, especially the selection of superintendents which still generally relied upon political connections and the Great Fire which prevented the city from spending on additions to the overcrowded HOC for fifteen years. Ultimately, studying the city's administration of the Bridewell and House of Correction demonstrates the segregation of inmates physically and literally from the public. Justice, previously negotiated by inmates and their families, became more formalized and extensive with the professionalization of local carceral facilities.
Garneau, Susan Marie, "Imprisoning Chicago: Incarceration, The Chicago City Council, Prisoners, and Reform, 1832-1915" (2012). Dissertations. 423.
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Copyright © 2012 Susan Marie Garneau