Elizabeth Fry’s friends begged her not to go. The prison had a terrible reputation: female prisoners would rip the clothes off visitors’ backs, take any valuables, and hurl verbal abuse. It was 1812, and although Newgate Prison in London was one of the most infamous of its day, Elizabeth was not put off by her friends’ fears. A deeply religious Quaker, she felt compelled to go. “Hath not the Lord commanded us to remember those in prison?” she asked. So she entered Newgate, refusing even to take off her watch. Nothing couldhavepreparedFry forwhat she saw. Hundreds of drunkenwomen dressed in rags were crammed into four crowded rooms, prostitutes, thieves, and innocent people together, all waiting for their trials. Children whose only crime was that they had nowhere else to go were mixed in with the adults. Words to Understand Extenuating circumstances: Reasons that excuse or justify someone’s actions. Moralistic: Concerned with narrow and often rigid interpretations of right and wrong. Rehabilitation: To restore or bring to a condition of health or usefulness. Self-incrimination: The act of offering evidence or statements that would strongly sug- gest one’s own guilt. Vagrancy: A lifestyle characterized by wandering with no permanent place to live. A Brief History of Juvenile Justice

London’s Newgate Prison held those who committed minor crimes, including petty theft, and major crimes, such as rape and murder. It held prisoners of all ages and offered little to no rehabilitation.


Juveniles Growing Up in Prison

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