2012 0-7734-2579-9 The Elmira Reformatory was without question the first prison in American penal history to employ the indeterminate sentence, good-time, and parole. For that distinction alone, Elmira represented a sea change in penal philosophy and practice. However, the Elmira Reformatory also lays claim to the first attempt in penal history to institute prison educational and vocational programs in a systematic fashion. The reformatory system at Elmira, distinctively so-called, was based on three great moving or controlling influences – labor, conduct, and education. According to its insightful founders, “if these influences were placed in the order most significantly to illustrate their powers over men upon whom they operated, they would stand in this relation to each other: Education, conduct and labor.” The factor that in most cases transformed men from hopeless felons to a comprehension of the possibilities of release and success in free society was the school room. Naturally following this perception and expansion of intellectual activity, came obedience to the rules, improved demeanor, and successful performance at work. In a word, the educational features of the Elmira system constituted the ground-work of the process of reformation. To it, all else was subservient, without it, expectation of improvement and reformation could not be reasonably entertained. Notwithstanding the late 19th century and early 20th century criticism of pathological reform, the educational program represents Elmira’s real legacy, and contribution to the evolution of penology.
2016 1-4955-0438-7 This study encompasses the full history of the Elmira reformatory model that was based on a highly structured disciplinary penal program designed to instill, in the offender, behavioral changes that would help to develop socially and morally conforming conduct within the prison population and enable the offender to reintegrate productively back into society upon his release from prison.