Within Prison Walls” by Thomas Mott Osborne

Thomas Mott Osborne was born in Auburn in 1859.  His father was founder of the D.M. Osborne agricultural works, and his mother was Eliza Wright Osborne, staunch supporter of abolition and women’s suffrage.  Upon his father’s death, Thomas Mott Osborne became President of the Osborne Company.  He later served as Mayor of Auburn and publisher of the Auburn Citizen.  He was very active in the George Junior Republic, a social experiment in rehabilitating “delinquent” boys.  He believed that the principles of self-government that were successful with the Junior Republic youth could also be successful with adults.

Due to his work with the Junior Republic and his prominence in state politics, Osborne was appointed by Governor Sulzer as Chairman of the New York State Commission on Prison Reform in 1913.  Having visited the prison as a sightseer in his childhood, Osborne wanted to see the prison from the point of view of an individual incarcerated there.  With the agreement of Warden Charles Rattigan, Osborne spent a week in Auburn Prison as an imprisoned individual, Tom Brown, in September 1913, after which he wrote Within Prison Walls.

Osborne came away from that week of incarceration as an advocate of a more humanistic prison system.  He believed that the prison should be treated as a community, and that imprisoned individuals should have some say in governing that community.  Osborne stressed the value of education rather than punishment.  He was the driving force behind the creation of the Mutual Welfare Inmate League, established at Auburn Prison in December 1913.


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Within Prison Walls
by Thomas Mott Osborne


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