How a Model Prison Became America's Scariest
USP Lewisberg: from rehabilitation to hardcore 'attitude adjustment'
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Nov 24, 2013 5:20 PM CST
USP Lewisberg.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – A prison that once encouraged upbeat activities among inmates is now home to the nation's nastiest criminals and severe prison tactics—a transformation that may say a lot about our prison system in general. An academic article, summarized by Justin Peters at Slate, recounts how the USP Lewisberg facility in Pennsylvania "stressed reform over retribution" when it opened in 1932. Prisoners were allowed to play sports, stage plays, and farm crops, all part of a belief that recreation kept inmates from turning morose and irritable.

Maybe Lewisburg was never that nice, but when rehabilitation fell out of vogue in the 1970s and parole was abolished for federal prisoners in 1984, the facility underwent a sea change. Now the most violent and difficult prisoners are sent there for "attitude adjustments," kept in tight 2-man cells that breed violence and ostensibly make inmates never want to come back. Maybe that makes other prisons safer, but "purchasing safety for the many by brutalizing a few is a devil’s bargain," writes Peters. "It is a solution unworthy of a civilized nation." See his full piece.

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Showing 3 of 91 comments
old_guy
Nov 25, 2013 4:34 PM CST
Having spent a portion of my life in prison where I met many real scary guys who rehabilitation was a joke for 90% of them and I only assume that there had to be a few who made it work. After two stays in that environment I decided I did not want to ever go back and found a way to stay out but it had nothing to do with any rehabilitation which was basically a joke. People who have never spent at least a year locked in a maximum security facility have absolutely no business making like they have any knowledge about the people who spend their lives in and out of such facilities, they haven’t got a clue.
No-Left-Turn
Nov 25, 2013 2:07 PM CST
"How a Model Prison Became America's Scariest" My god, how many models are sent to prison?
FarmerMichael
Nov 25, 2013 12:05 PM CST
I have planted trees with older men, who replanted the Tillamook Burn (one of the US's largest fires through the 50's) as prison crews. They turned to good lives and brought their grandchildren to our tree plantings, but were a bit vague about their first tree planting experiences. The world teaches how to do things that get people into prison. When you teach them to do actual good, they pass it on. Count this long term Republican as a liberal on how to treat prison populations. If you don't treat folks well, (well meaning provide opportunities to change, not a life of luxury,) one might as well shoot them when they enter the gates, as they will "pay back" poor treatment. That is only human nature.