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In tracing the evolution of federal imprisonment, Paul W. Keve emphasizes the ways in which corrections history has been affected by and is reflective of other trends in the political and cultural life of the United States.
The federal penal system has undergone substantial evolution over two hundred years. Keve divides this evolutionary process into three phases. During the first phase, from 1776 through the end of the nineteenth century, no federal prisons existed in the United States. Federal prisoners were simply boarded in state or local facilities.
It was in the second phase, starting with the passage of the Three Prison Act by Congress in 1891, that federal facilities were constructed at Leavenworth and Atlanta, while the old territorial prison at McNeil Island in Washington eventually became, in effect, the third prison. In this second phase, the federal government began the enormous task of providing its own prison cells. Still, there was no effective supervisory force to make a prison system.
In 1930, the Federal Bureau of Prisons was created, marking the third phase of the prison system’s evolution. The Bureau, in its first sixty years of existence, introduced numerous correctional innovations, thereby building an effective, centrally controlled prison system with progressive standards. Keve details the essential characteristics of this now mature system, guiding the reader through the historical process to the present day.