By Jennifer Graber
Considering the intersection of Christianity and politics within the American detention center process, Jennifer Graber explores evangelical Protestants' efforts to make faith significant to rising practices and philosophies of felony self-discipline from the 1790s in the course of the 1850s. in the beginning, country and criminal officers welcomed Protestant reformers' and ministers' concepts, relatively their principles approximately inmate discomfort and redemption. through the years, even if, officers proved much less receptive to the reformers' actions, and inmates additionally antagonistic them. resulting debates among reformers, officers, and inmates printed deep disagreements over religion's position in prisons and within the wider public sphere because the separation of church and nation took carry and the nation's non secular setting turned extra varied and aggressive. analyzing the leading edge manhattan felony process, Graber exhibits how Protestant reformers didn't discover their goals of large-scale inmate conversion or of prisons that mirrored their values. to maintain a foothold in prisons, reformers have been pressured to relinquish their Protestant terminology and practices and as a substitute to undertake secular rules approximately American morals, virtues, and citizenship. Graber argues that, by means of revising their unique realizing of prisoner soreness and redemption, reformers realized to determine inmates' afflictions now not as an important prelude to a sinner's adventure of grace yet because the required punishment for breaking the recent nation's legislation.
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Extra resources for The Furnace of Affliction: Prisons and Religion in Antebellum America
Consequently, they did not necessarily require direction from others. Fox’s followers, especially Robert Barclay, preached the possibilities of the Inner Light in a culture that still assumed religious authority rested in the hands of a small, male elite. 19 While Quaker apologists reveled in the Inner Light, they certainly did not dismiss all forms of outside authority. Indeed, historians identify both “externalist and internalist tendencies” in the Society’s development. They point to a reliance on internal religious access and experience on the one hand, along with affirmations of human sinfulness, Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and the authority of scripture on the other.
25 Despite such harsh sanctions, New York’s colonial-era system of criminal justice proved somewhat fragile. Casework was notoriously uneven, with more than two-fifths of cases brought to the courts never ending in resolution. More than 50 percent of criminals who received death sentences were eventually pardoned. As historian Douglas Greenberg has found, lawbreakers’ experience of the criminal justice system varied widely depending on the county they lived in and the social categories they occupied.
Friends’ meetings developed patterns of discipline for those who broke the guidelines impressed on them since childhood. Eddy’s prison ideal combined these internal traditions of childrearing and group discipline with the Quaker external concern for other people. Namely, he worried about the dangers of bad social environments in general and particular social practices that targeted marginal groups, such as African Americans and Native Americans. Like antislavery Friend Anthony Benezet, Eddy believed these populations’ problems were caused not by their base characters or lesser humanity but rather by their dreadful social situations.