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Montana Justice: Power, Punishment, and the Penitentiary

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During Montana's early territorial years, "criminal justice" was almost nonexistent: a few towns had inadequate and chronically overcrowded jails; occasional prisoners were sent east to the federal penitentiary in Detroit; and vigilantes summarily dealt with others suspected of crimes. In 1871, the federal government funded a penitentiary in Deer Lodge and later turned over to Montana when it achieved statehood in 1889. In this absorbing book, Keith Edgerton provides a social history of the Montana Penitentiary, with a primary focus on its early, formative years. After statehood, Montana leased its penitentiary to contractors, who utilized cheap inmate labor to turn a profit for themselves and for the state. The warden of the institution soon became a regional political boss and entered a relationship with other area politicians and capitalists, using inmates for a variety of public works endeavors. Eventually, however, his corruption led to his ouster by a progressive governor, Joseph M. Dixon, and sparked a subsequent trial and heated political controversy that led in large part to Dixon's ultimate political downfall. After 1921 the prison system came under full control of the state government. Although there were changes at the penitentiary during the rest of the twentieth century-and two full-scale riots in the 1950s-there was also a depressing repetition of corruption, neglect, and underfunding. Montana Justice is based on a wealth of research, especially in primary sources; Edgerton notes, "Prisons are treasure troves of information, whose administrators generate and preserve an enormous amount of detailed written documentation about their residents.
Product Details

Author: Keith Edgerton

Language: English


Binding: Paperback

Publisher: University of Washington Press

Release Date: 2004-09-01

Pages: 216

ISBN: 0295984430

ISBN13: 9780295984438