Auburn Prison Reform

Auburn State Prison was built in 1816, as a model for prison reform. Its disciplinary system was based on silence, corporal punishment, and “congregate” (group) labor. Tiered and single cells were also some of these reforms from this time period. Americans at this time felt crimes came from the industrialization of America.

Thomas Mott Osborne, (1859-1926), was instrumental in further changes to the prison system after reading an account of an inmate from San Quentin Prison in California. He was from a family of anti-slavery and suffragette reformers in the Central New York area. Their fortunes came from farm equipment innovations which eventually became the International Harvester Company.

He entered Auburn Prison for 6 days as an inmate and was treated as such. Later he wrote and spoke to groups of his experience and was appointed Warden of Sing Sing Prison. He worked tireless to reform the prison system continuing his prison reform efforts even after his resignation from Sing Sing.

He died in 1926, and is buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York.

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