- Series: Studies in Crime and Public Policy
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 11, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195169123
- ISBN-13: 978-0195169126
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.7 x 5.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Maconochie's Gentlemen: The Story of Norfolk Island and the Roots of Modern Prison Reform (Studies in Crime and Public Policy)
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From Publishers Weekly
In this unique narrative of 19th-century penal reform, Morris, a law professor at the University of Chicago and editor of The Oxford History of the Prison, relates penal history to contemporary prison controversies. Morris gleans trenchant lessons from the work of Royal Navy Capt. Alexander Maconochie, superintendent of Norfolk Island, an Australian coastal settlement that in 1840 was a prison for the "worst of the worst." Maconochie, a man of unbending compassion, tested reform theories, combining scientific measurement of each prisoner's progress with increased privileges to elicit good behavior. All available accounts indicate that Maconochie transformed a hellish prison into a safe, well-run environment. Morris engagingly recounts Maconochie's four-year administration via four fictionalized voices: those of Maconochie himself, two better-adjusted prisoners (the prison librarian and a musician who formed an orchestra) and Maconochie's daughter, who became smitten with the musician-prisoner. Morris wonders whether Maconochie's success may have been due less to the marks system than to his honest communications with the prisoners; still, his system of privileges-for-conformity paid great dividends. While Maconochie's tenure allowed civil relations between prisoners and their soldier-keepers, his successors reverted to policies of gratuitous cruelty, resulting in deadly riots, shortly before the prison was closed. Unfortunately, Morris's deft re-creations of his principal characters' likely recollections overshadow three brief essays relating Maconochie's experiment to the perpetual penological clash between rehabilitation and punishment, a crucial component of the book given the pro-punishment camp's current successes. This lucid, novel (and novelistic) approach to a nearly forgotten chapter in penology deserves attention. 3 halftones and 3 maps. (Nov.)Forecasts: Scholars, prison activists and open-minded law enforcement professionals will appreciate this unusual book.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Digital edition.
From Library Journal
This slim volume is a partly fictionalized account of a unique experiment in prison reform. In 1840, Alexander Maconochie, a retired British naval captain, was elected to become superintendent of Norfolk Island, a prison colony off the coast of Australia. Using humane methods and a "mark system" that allowed prisoners to shorten their sentences by good behavior, Maconochie ameliorated the brutal conditions on the island and transformed many of the men into "gentlemen." Sadly, the British authorities did not approve of his methods and replaced him in 1844. Law professor Morris (The Oxford History of Prisons) uses diaries ostensibly written by Maconochie and his family to recount what went on during his four years on Norfolk. The most poignant entries are by Maconochie's daughter Mary Ann, whose love for a convict forms a charming subplot. The book concludes with "Contemporary Lessons from Maconochie's Experiment" in which Morris discusses the need for modern prison reform as an alternative to the "supermax prisons" now widely used in this country. If Maconochie's methods worked under such extreme conditions, wouldn't they work today in our supposedly enlightened times? Highly recommended for crime collections in public and academic libraries. Frances Sandiford, Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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Top customer reviews
THE MODERN DAY JOHN HOWARD
[The power of political leadership in pursuit of popular support by relentless and unscrupulous means has surely and frequently been demonstrated....a public misled by false statistics, sensational and selective sound bites, and political leaders seeking votes is plain to see....Consequently, a prison regime defines the razor edge between power and freedom, authority and autonomy. NM]
In this compelling "roman a clef" entitled: "Maconochie's Gentlemen: The Story of Norfolk Island and the Roots of Modern Prison Reform," the humanism and the incisive intellect of Norval Morris are beautifully revealed. Published in 2002, the novel gives a vivid portrayal of Alexander Maconochie's heroic achievement of creating a "token economy" for rewarding positive behavior through a convict "Marks System" in the penal colony at Norfolk Island, a thousand miles off the coast of Australia, 1840-44. Moreover, it shares a passionate belief that a virtuous prison is possible in the process of maintaining humane and safe prisons. This belief epitomizes the life and work of Norval Morris.
Why would anyone devote himself to penal reform? If there is a viable alternative, why choose to suffer the chill breath of adverse public opinion, the bemused stares of neighbors, the frustrations and lack of reward? It is a vexing question; a satisfying answer is not easily come by. Yet, down through the history of prisons, penal reformers are legion. In contemplating the extraordinary saga of John Howard (1773) and his narrative, The State of the Prisons in Europe and England, Norval makes note of his own life's journey of penal reform.
In an incomparably lesser way, I have devoted the last five-and-a-half decades to the minutiae of prison regimes in four continents. Yet, a vocation in the academic side of criminal law provided all I needed by way of a comfortable, professional, and personal life. To add myself to the list of prison reformers is not to draw a self-serving comparison. Rather, it is to seek an answer to the troublesome question: Why should anyone of reasonable ability see the conditions of prison life as meriting serious and sustained concern? So, when devising prison conditions, you should devise them for yourself. (NM)
As the nineteenth century American prison reform heroine, Elizabeth Gurney Fry has advised: If thee should build a prison, consider thee and thine children might inhabit it. In tribute to Norval Morris, and at his behest for achieving a better understanding of the dilemma(s) of corrections, I recommend an absorbing read of "Manonochie's Gentlemen." Here one will find the heart and soul of a life committed to penal reform. Here, too, one will discover how we will all continue to benefit from the enduring legacy of Norval Morris.
Chester, Connecticut (2/25/04)