In tracing the evolution of federal imprisonment, Paul W. Keve
emphasizes the ways in which corrections history has been affected
by and is reflective of other trends in the political and cultural
life of the United States.
The federal penal system has undergone substantial evolution over
two hundred years. Keve divides this evolutionary process into
three phases. During the first phase, from 1776 through the end of
the nineteenth century, no federal prisons existed in the United
States. Federal prisoners were simply boarded in state or local
It was in the second phase, starting with the passage of the Three
Prison Act by Congress in 1891, that federal facilities were
constructed at Leavenworth and Atlanta, while the old territorial
prison at McNeil Island in Washington eventually became, in effect,
the third prison. In this second phase, the federal government
began the enormous task of providing its own prison cells. Still,
there was no effective supervisory force to make a prison
In 1930, the Federal Bureau of Prisons was created, marking the
third phase of the prison system's evolution. The Bureau, in its
first sixty years of existence, introduced numerous correctional
innovations, thereby building an effective, centrally controlled
prison system with progressive standards. Keve details the
essential characteristics of this now mature system, guiding the
reader through the historical process to the present day.
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