Prison Life in America


Coming in late 2020

In 1831-32, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont travelled 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 discovered an altogether new dimension of life in America, investigating 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 travellers, the American prison was a new form of despotism. And they found evidence of a different kind of despotism in Canada.