Teaching Students About the Auburn Prison System
The Auburn Prison System, located in Auburn, New York, was one of the first state-run penitentiaries in the United States. Founded in 1817, the system is known for its use of the “Auburn System,” a form of mass incarceration that emphasized the importance of hard labor and prisoners’ isolation from one another.
As educators, it is essential to teach our students about the Auburn Prison System, its history, and its impact on the criminal justice system in the United States.
The Auburn System was designed to reform prisoners by using hard labor to teach discipline and obedience. Under the Auburn System, prisoners were required to work in workshops during the daytime, and then be sent back to their cells at night where they would be placed in solitary confinement. The idea behind this was to limit contact between prisoners to minimize conflicts, and to ensure that they were held accountable for their actions.
The Auburn System had its detractors, who cited the isolation and harsh labor as amounts to cruel and inhuman punishment. However, the system was not without its successes, with many former prisoners going on to lead productive lives after completing their sentences.
Despite its contributions to American penology, the Auburn System was eventually abandoned in favor of a more rehabilitative approach. Today, the Auburn Correctional Facility still operates as a maximum security prison, but it has long since abandoned the brutal practices of the Auburn System.
There are several ways that teachers can help their students to understand the history of the Auburn System, and its impact on the criminal justice system in the United States:
1. Incorporate primary sources into classroom instruction. Primary documents like newspaper articles, memoirs, and eyewitness accounts can offer students a firsthand look at what life was like in the Auburn System.
2. Organize a field trip to a local correctional facility. This can give students an up-close look at how modern day prisons function and provide a context for the Auburn System.
3. Encourage students to take a critical look at the Auburn System and draw their conclusions. Ask students to evaluate the effectiveness of the Auburn System and compare it with modern-day techniques for rehabilitating prisoners.
In conclusion, teaching students about the Auburn Prison System can help to broaden their understanding of American penology. Through examining the Auburn System’s history and its impact on the criminal justice system, students can develop critical thinking skills and learn about the complex ways in which the criminal justice system evolves over time.