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The Furnace of AfflictionPrisons and Religion in Antebellum America$
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Jennifer Graber

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834572

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807877838_graber

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The Furnace at Sing Sing, 1828–1839

The Furnace at Sing Sing, 1828–1839

(p.103) 4 The Furnace at Sing Sing, 1828–1839
The Furnace of Affliction

Jennifer Graber

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter describes how Sing Sing Prison's agent assaulted the resident chaplain and threw him out of the prison. The institution had no minister until a year later when a new head administrator took over. The new agent, Robert Wiltse, was also dubious about prison chaplains. In a report presented to the state legislature in 1834, Wiltse questioned the claims of inmate reformation boasted by prison ministers. “How much risk do they run of being deceived by hypocritical protestations?” he asked. Wiltse assured the legislature that “the hope once entertained of producing a general and radical reformation of offenders through a penitentiary system, is abandoned by the most intelligent philanthropists, who now think its chief benefit is the prevention of crime.” In order to suppress lawbreaking, Wiltse argued, “criminals must be made to submit through corporal punishment.”

Keywords:   Sing Sing Prison, resident chaplain, head administrator, Robert Wiltse, prison chaplains, state legislature

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