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Document Type

Open Access

Degree Program

History

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

2011

Month Degree Awarded

February

Keywords

Prison History, Prisoners' Rights Movement, Maine Social Movements, Maine Prisons, SCAR, Ray Levasseur

Abstract

In late 1972, prisoners and ex-convicts in Maine formed Statewide Correctional Alliance for Reform (SCAR), a radical prisoners' rights organization that provoked a thoroughgoing public discussion on the function of prisons in Maine and in American society that lasted for about two years. Working for prison reform through legislation, litigation, and community organizing, SCAR influenced a Maine public unusually receptive to new approaches to criminal justice due to the impact of nationwide prison rebellions and the widely publicized massacre of forty-three prisoners and guards in New York’s Attica State Prison on September 13, 1971. As SCAR members, frustrated by the slow pace of change, came to increasingly view crime and prisons as products of an unjust socio-economic system that could be changed only through revolutionary means, a conservative backlash against prison reform also developed in the state, led by police officers, prison guards, and others who felt that Maine’s criminal justice system did not effectively safeguard its citizens from violent crime. When SCAR disbanded in 1976 as a result of internal political divisions and intense police repression, Maine no longer had an organized constituency to push for prison reform, leaving conservatives and the forces of political inertia and public indifference to guide state correctional policy in the years since.

First Advisor

Christian G. Appy

Second Advisor

Jennifer Fronc

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