Prison Life in America


Coming in Fall 2019

In 1831-32, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont traveled to the United States on a French government mission to inspect prisons. The two men also visited colonial Canada. In visiting one penitentiary after another, and interviewing wardens and prisoners alike, they investigated the sources of crime, and what it meant to be deprived of liberty in a democratic society, to be holed up in solitary confinement, under constant surveillance, sometimes hooded, and held in chains. For the two French travelers, the American prison was a new form of despotism. But they found evidence of a different kind of despotism in Canada.