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Athenaeum of Philadelphia | The Deviant Prison: Eastern State Penitentiary w/Ashley Rubin

July 27 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America’s Modern Penal System, 1829–1913
At a time when prisons were still new, and nearly every prison in the country followed the same model of confinement, Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary (opened in 1829) was known for its exceptional reliance on long-term solitary confinement. Eastern was criticized for its exceptional reliance on what was seen as an inhumane, expensive, and ineffective approach to confinement. Why did it persist in its deviance? This talk discusses how Eastern became a “deviant prison” and the work its administrators performed to protect their embattled prison for decades.
Ashley Rubin is an associate professor of Sociology at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She holds a PhD in Jurisprudence and Social Policy. Rubin’s research examines the dynamics of penal change throughout US history. She uses organizational theory, law and society, punishment and society, and prison sociology to understand prisoner behavior, administrative behavior, and penal trends more broadly. Her research has been published in Law & Society Review, Law & Social Inquiry, Punishment & Society, Theoretical Criminology, British Journal of Criminology, and Annual Review of Law and Social Science, among other venues, and her TEDx talk on the how sending people to prison became normal is available on YouTube. Rubin is the author of The Deviant Prison (Cambridge University Press, 2021) and Rocking Qualitative Social Science (Stanford University Press, 2021), and she is currently writing a book on the history of American prisons. Rubin holds or has held leadership positions in the Law and Society Association and the American Sociological Association and is on the editorial boards of Law & Social Inquiry, Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, and Incarceration; she is also the book review editor (for North and South America) for the international journal Punishment & Society.