STS Lecture

Confinement, Consumption, and Construction:  Tuberculosis and the Medicalization of Prison Infrastructure in the 19th Century

Dr. Margaret Charleroy, Research Associate, Minnesota Population Center

Charleroy Talk, Nov. 13Date: November 13
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Bixler 150

The nineteenth century American prison was more than a place to confine social deviants; it was a place of care. The prison population boomed in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. This growth placed significant pressure on prison administration to grow the physical structure of the prison and strained its rehabilitative mission. The prison physician responded by seeking to understand the growing population as a distinctive whole with its own characteristics and personality. He adjusting both his care of individual inmates and the space in which he practiced. This is highlighted by the care of tubercular inmates at Minnesota State Prison in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using prison medical registers both quantitatively and qualitatively, I argue that to care for tubercular inmates, and prevent infection of healthy inmates, the physician at Minnesota State Prison established isolation wards for inmates with tuberculosis and experimented with forms of treatment that fit the prison’s physical limitation, making the prison a laboratory of medical practice.


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