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Chapter 7 examines the roots of furlough programs in the Jim Crow South. In the first half of the twentieth century, southern governors and wardens allowed the temporary release of large numbers of prisoners, and these efforts were supported by the public and the press. In a context where “degrees of freedom” provided a normative structure for southern society as a whole, allowing temporary release to prisoners as a reward for good behavior made sense. Prisoners treasured furloughs as opportunities to maintain connections with the outside world. By the 1950s, penological reformers perceived the fluidity of southern prisons as a feature to emulate. While Mississippi’s penal system was regarded by outsiders as backward and brutal, the “open” plantation prison came to be regarded as an antidote to the “cell-block psychosis” of urban, fortress-like facilities. Thus, penologists around the country identified Mississippi’s furlough practices as a model for modern corrections.

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