Chapter 3 & 4. Review “Maconochie’s Gentlemen”
Neil D. J. Kerr
CJ 104: Section 001
April 15, 2010
Boise State University
In this paper, I will summarize part 3 “Why Do Prison Conditions Matter?” and part 4 “Contemporary Lessons from Maconochie’s Experiment” of Maconochie’s Gentlemen, written by Norval Morris (Morris, 2002). I will then provide a critical analysis of Maconochie and the Norfolk Island Prison reform story to current correctional practices. Summary
In part 3, Morris (2002, p.171) discusses why prison conditions matter and why penal reformers, including himself, have devoted their lives and travelled thousands of miles to other countries in search of answers to questions that would improve prison correction from what is corrupt or defective. Morris (2002, p.172) suggests human rights are relative to all human beings whether free or imprisoned and he considers prisons as a smaller community within the world. Thus, the infliction of unnecessary torture and pain cannot be justified and therefore must be prevented and eradicated. Morris (2002, p.174) sighted notable philosophers, politicians and other prominent persons who believed the treatment of a prisoner is an instrumental indictor of a civilized society. Without difference, Morris (2002, p176) puts forward his ideas of improved educational, vocational training programs and psychological evaluation followed by treatment with the goal of reducing a relapse into criminal behavior. In part 4, Morris (2002, p.177) makes reference and connection to the intellectual insight that Maconochie’s work on Norfolk Island and at Birmingham prison has had on the United States correctional institutions. Maconochie (Morris, 2002) advocated indeterminate sentences as opposed to fixed sentences; he suggested prisoners should be the keepers of the keys to their own cells. In the 1830s, this was not received well and the powers that be thought him to be out of touch with reality. What Maconochie was implying was the regime he introduced on Norfolk Island called the “Marks System” this was a positive and negative conditioning by rewarding prisoners with points for good behavior and subtracting points for misbehavior. The incentive of this system was to earn an island ticket-of-leave, which permitted improved living conditions on a farm setting located on the island. This incentive encouraged self respect, hard work and compliance with other prisoners, minimizing violation of prison rules. From this point in time, the correctional system has progressed to noncapital forms of punishments, probation and parole, fines, halfway houses, community service and drug and other treatment programs. However, there is still a lot to learn from Maconochie’s doctrine, the current “supermax” prisons, with 22 hours plus of solitary confinement would be considered by Maconochie as a step back in time (Morris, 2002, p.181). Maconochie’s “Marks System” focused on “work obligation” including giving prisoners work even when they were in their cells. Maconochie did not see the punishment “time obligation” as a reformatory act to integrate a prisoner back into society. Despite Maconochie’s successes and the surface appeal, his system was not without flaws. No one person in authority wanted to accept responsibility in a situation that could not predict a human being’s behavior. Today, this situation is referred to as “risk assessment” which can be defined as declaring in advance the likelihood of being wrong (Morris, 2002, p.182). Morris (2002, p.184) suggests if Maconochie had combined the “time” and “work” obligations as a maximum and minimum time set by a judge at sentencing, this could have been used to determine the length of the time served within the marks system by the points earned. This would also eradicate the concerns of responsibility as the...