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Thomas Mott Osborne

Osborne, Thomas Mott, 1859–1926, American prison reformer, b. Auburn, N.Y., grad. Harvard, 1884. As chairman (1913) of the state commission on prison reform he became a voluntary prisoner in the Auburn penitentiary in order to learn conditions at first hand. Within Prison Walls (1914) records his experiences. At Sing Sing Prison, where he was warden (1914–15), he instituted a system of self-government for the inmates. The program aroused political hostility, and he resigned after a trial for misconduct although he was acquitted. From 1917 to 1920 he was commandant of the U.S. naval prison at Portsmouth, N.H. His views are expressed in Society and Prisons (1916, repr. 1972) and Prisons and Common Sense (1924).

See biography by R. W. Chamberlain (1935, repr. 1972); study by F. Tannenbaum (1933).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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