British Criminals are no longer sent to AmericaUp until 1776, it was standard procedure for British authorities to banish criminal offenders to the American colonies as a form of punishment. That practice ended after the Revolutionary War, and Australia took the place as the primary destination for British convicts.
Walnut Street Prison EstablishedQuakers in Pennsylvania and West Jersey were among the first to advocate substituting corporal or capital punishment for imprisonment, laying the foundations of modern criminal justice. Walnut Street Prison was designed to provide a severe environment that left inmates much time for reflection, but it was also designed to be cleaner and safer than past prisons. The Walnut Street Prison was one of the forerunners of an entire school of thought on prison construction and reform.
Auburn State Prison EstablishedAuburn State Prison established a disciplinary and administrative system based on silence, corporal punishment, and congregate labor. In architecture and routine, Auburn became the model for prisons throughout the United States.
13th Amendment RatifiedThe Thirteenth Amendment made slavery illegal, but arresting criminals, sentencing them to hard labor and then leasing that labor was all perfectly legal. This marked the beginning of the convict lease system, in which prisoners in the custody of the state were leased to private enterprises. Once again, involuntary labor was big business in the South, though Northern institutions weren't above taking advantage of this lucrative opportunity either.
Indianna Women's Prison EstablishedIn the late 19th century and early 20th century, women's-only prisons and juvenile facilities began to emerge. Many of the reforms that improved quality of life for inmates, such as vocational training, educational classes, libraries and recreation, can be credited to innovations pioneered in women's prisons.
Federal Prison System Established
Harrison Narcotics Tax Act PassedCongress passes Harrison Narcotics Tax Act,
restricting the sale of opiates and cocaine, launching the
country’s “First war on drugs.”
Alabama Becomes Last State to Outlaw Convict Leasing
Zoot Suit Riots“Zoot Suit Riots” in LA and Detroit riots, two
examples of racial violence that break out during and after
WW2; this leads to calls for increased national attention to
police brutality and misconduct. Before WW2, most criminal
justice policy in the US was in the hands of local or state
Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally IllDeinstitutionalization of the mentally ill begins;
closing of mental hospitals and reduction in overall state care
for people with serious mental illness. Jails and prisons
eventually take up the slack.
High Rates of CrimeUS and most western countries experience dramatic
increase in crime. From 1962-1972, the annual number of
homicides more than doubles. The homicide rate among
blacks had been several times higher than whites since at least
Gideon v. WainwrightSupreme Court — in Gideon v. Wainwright — rules
that indigent criminal defendants have a right to a lawyer.
The Court says nothing about how to pay for such counsel,
leading to a rise in fees charged to defendants. In the 1960’s,
a number of rulings by the Warren Court expand the rights of
incarcerated people and people being policed, at the expense
of police power.
Goldwater CampaignGoldwater campaign uses explicitly racial language to
discuss crime. Conservatives conflate riots, street crime, and
Office of Law Enforcement Assistance is CreatedJohnson creates Office of Law Enforcement
Assistance, with support from left and right. OLEA provides
funding and programs to expand and improve state and local
criminal justice systems.
Johnson's "War on Crime"Johnson calls for “war on crime” in context of war
on poverty and other root causes. Omnibus Crime Control
and Safe Streets Act passes Congress, but with major
modifications from conservatives that give most funding
control to the states. Johnson considers a veto, but the
assassination of Robert F. Kennedy dissuades him.
Nixon declares "War on Drugs"
Rockefeller's Drugs Laws are Toughest in NationNew York Governor Nelson Rockefeller enacts
toughest drug laws in the nation, punishing possession of even
small amounts of drugs with 15 years to life.
Increased Incarceration Rates1970's- mid 1980's: General increased incarceration for
Regan declares "War on Drugs"Reagan recommits to War on Drugs.
Corrections Corporation of America EstablishedCorrections Corporation of America, the first and largest of
contemporary private prison corporations, is founded.
Sentencing Reform Act PassedSentencing Reform Act prescribes mandatory
minimums and eliminates judicial discretion.
Regan's "Crack" DownReagan administration hires staff to publicize the
emergence of crack cocaine.
Public Not Extremely Concerned about Illegal DrugsPolls show less than 2% of the public believe illegal drugs to
be the most important problem facing the country. LA Times reports that a national wave of crack-dealing related murders actually followed the wave of media hype
about crack. “Scare stories about an ‘instantly addictive’ and
violence-provoking drug served to spread crack cocaine, not
accurately describe its use in most of America.”
Bush Beats DukakisPolls now show a majority believe illegal drugs are a
Willie Horton ad helps George H. W. Bush defeat Michael
Dukakis and become President. Horton was a black
man serving a life sentence for murder in Massachusetts,
where Dukakis was governor. Released for a weekend
furlough, Horton did not return to prison as scheduled and
subsequently committed assault, robbery, and rape. The ad
Homicide Rates Down, Drug Rates UpNational homicide rate begins steady,
significant decline. Reported drug use begins to climb again, but remains well below 1970’s rates.
3 Strikes LawLonger prison sentences mostly due to three-strikes and truth-in-sentencing laws.
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement ActClinton signs Violent Crime Control and Law
Enforcement Act, the “largest crime bill in the history of the
country,” which is sponsored by then-Senator Joe Biden. The act bans incarcerated people from receiving Pell Grants for college. Additionally, it gives the DOJ the power to sue police departments for civil rights infractions. The Violence Against Women Act is part of the bill.
9/11 and the War on Terror9/11 attacks prompt War on Terror, which increasingly
is used as justification for intrusive policing in the name of
homeland security and counterterrorism.
ICE FormedUS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) formed.
SHU Exclusion Law PassedNew York State passes SHU Exclusion Law, beginning
process of limiting who can be placed in solitary confinement.
George W. Bush signs Second Chance Act, which increases
federal funding for reentry programs.
"Right on Crime" FoundedMarc Levin founds “Right on Crime,” the conservative group
promoting mass incarceration reform.
Public Safety "Realignment" in CACalifornia institutes Public Safety “Realignment” to
reduce state prison population, under Supreme Court order to
reduce overcrowding. Shifts responsibility for people convicted
of non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenses from state
prisons to local jails and probation.
SnowdenEdward Snowden reveals the extent of US phone
surveillance. 87% of wiretaps are used in cases where “drug
offense” is the most serious suspected crime.
Obama AdministrationObama administration reverses its policy on asylum
seekers, deciding that ICE will detain all arriving Central
American families, even those judged to be "fleeing a “credible
threat” who will likely be granted asylum.