Maconochie's Gentlemen

Maconochie's Gentlemen : The Story of Norfolk Island and the Roots of Modern Prison Reform

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In 1840, Alexander Maconochie, a privileged retired naval captain, became at his own request superintendent of two thousand twice-convicted prisoners on Norfolk Island, a thousand miles off the coast of Australia. In four years, Maconochie transformed what was one of the most brutal convict settlements in history into a controlled, stable, and productive environment that achieved such success that upon release his prisoners came to be called "Maconochie's Gentlemen". Here Norval Morris, one of our most renowned criminologists, offers a highly inventive and engaging account of this early pioneer in penal reform, enhancing Maconochie's life story with a trenchant policy twist. Maconochie's life and efforts on Norfolk Island, Morris shows, provide a model with profound relevance to the running of correctional institutions today. Using a unique combination of fictionalized history and critical commentary, Morris gives this work a powerful policy impact lacking in most standard academic accounts. In an era of "mass incarceration" that rivals that of the settlement of Australia, Morris injects the question of humane treatment back into the debate over prison reform. Maconochie and his "Marks system" played an influential role in the development of prisons; but for the last thirty years prison reform has been dominated by punitive and retributive sentiments, the conventional wisdom holding that we need 'supermax' prisons to control the 'worst of the worst' in solitary and harsh conditions. Norval Morris argues to the contrary, holding up the example of Alexander Maconochie as a clear-cut alternative to the "living hell" of prison systems more

Product details

  • Hardback | 234 pages
  • 145.8 x 214.9 x 23.4mm | 399.17g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 3 halftones, 3 maps
  • 0195146077
  • 9780195146073

About Norval Morris

Norval Morris is Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and Criminology at the University of Chicago. He is the editor of The Oxford History of the Prison and the author of The Brothel Boy and Other Parables of the Law. In 2000, he received both the American Society of Criminology's Edwin E. Sutherland Award and the National Council of Crime and Delinquency's Donald Cressey more

Review quote

"If Maconochie's methods worked under such extreme conditions, wouldn't they work today in our supposedly enlightened times? Highly recommended for crime collections in public and academic libraries."--Library Journal (starred review)"Captain Maconochie's Gentlemen displays Norval Morris's large gifts as a fine narrative writer and a pre-eminent social scientist. This is a book that fits Aristotle's directive that fine art should enlighten and entertain. It is, in the first instance, an illuminating story, told through the eyes of Captain Maconochie and the family and colleagues he brought with him to Norfolk Island in 1840, of Western society's first efforts at penal rehabilitation. The fiction is followed by incisive reflections by Morris in his role as one of America's leading criminologists, relating Maconochie's experiment to the circumstances today. The book is engrossing in both modes and is thoughtful, moving, and revealing at all points. My hat is off to Norval Morris."--Scott F. Turowshow more

Rating details

15 ratings
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4 27% (4)
3 27% (4)
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