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Crime & Incarceration

Selected Primary Sources in the Sophia Smith Collection

Personal Papers and Organization Records

Arise for Social Justice (1985 - )
Arise for Social Justice is a Springfield, Massachusetts-based low-income rights organization founded by a small group of women on public assistance in 1985. It is a low-income led membership organization that believes that “we as poor people have a right to speak for ourselves, and that as we do, we learn how to build political power for ourselves.” Its many and varied programs and alliances seek to educate, organize, unite, and empower low-income people. Arise’s involvement with the criminal justice system began when the organization agreed to employ individuals sentenced to do community service work in 1988. The membership has worked on issues related to police brutality, community policing, citizen review of police, criminal offender record information (CORI) regulations, prison conditions, mandatory minimum sentences, political prisoners, youth violence, and the death penalty. SERIES IV. CRIMINAL JUSTICE, SERIES II. FINANCIAL MATERIALS, and SERIES XXIII. VIOLENCE contain records related to Arise’s criminal justice work.
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Madeleine Zabriskie Doty (1880 - 1984)
Lawyer, journalist, suffragist, prison reformer, teacher, and pacifist. Became interested in children’s courts and delinquency while working as a lawyer in New York in the early 1900s, and voluntarily spent a week in a women’s prison to investigate conditions. Papers include correspondence, photographs, printed material, memorabilia, three small notebooks of day-to-day jottings kept during her last months, an incomplete typescript of her unpublished autobiography, and a printed copy of her doctoral thesis. Over 300 letters, dated 1906 to 1963, comprise bulk of collection. Correspondents include many fellow activists, with whom she discusses a variety of reform interests, including prison reform.
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Katherine Gabel (1938 - )
Social worker, professor, Smith class of 1959. Gabel was employed with various mental health and juvenile offender committees, including as a consultant to the New York State Crime Control Council, superintendent of the Adobe Mountain School, and part-time faculty member and lecturer at the Center for Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Tempe. She also served as Dean and Professor at the Smith College School for Social Work. The collection consists mostly of personal and professional correspondence; subject files; teaching material and undergraduate and graduate notes, reports and writings. It also includes printed material related to the Adobe Mountain School and the Smith College School for Social work and various professional affiliations.

Jean Struven Harris (1923 – 2012)
Graduated from Smith College in 1945, became a teacher in various schools and eventually headmistress of Madeira School in McLean, Virginia. Convicted of second degree murder of Dr. Herman Tarnower in 1980. While in prison, she worked in the children’s center and wrote a number of books and articles (published and unpublished) on women in prison. She also counseled other female prisoners on childcare and set up a center where infants born to inmates could spend a year near their mothers. In 1986 she helped establish Children of Bedford Fund, which pays school tuition for children whose mothers are incarcerated. Continued to work the fund after her release from prison. Papers consist of correspondence, clippings, printed material, research material on correctional systems, writings, legal documents, memorabilia, audiotapes, video tapes (of television interviews), and her trial record.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Jean Harris Defense Fund and Committee (1983 – 1993)
The Jean Harris Defense Fund and Committee was established circa 1983 to raise support and petition for the release of Jean Struven Harris from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (N.Y.), where she was incarcerated in 1981 for the murder of Dr. Herman Tarnower. Jean Harris was released in 1993. The bulk of the material is correspondence, including committee correspondence with Jean Harris, supporter correspondence with the committee, and petition letters to the Governor of New York. Materials related to Jean Harris include clippings by and about her as well as other biographical materials, medical reports, and writings by Harris. Other materials include petitions, records on contributors and supporters, and a notebook of materials compiled by Fund for Governor Cuomo appealing for Harris' release. See also Jean Struven Harris Papers.
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Anna Moskowitz Kross (1891 – 1979)
Lawyer, first woman judge in a magistrate’s court. Presided over Home Term Court, an experimental social court, and also served as Commissioner of Correction in New York City, 1954-66. Advocated for prison reform, including the implantation of psychological and psychiatric social work in criminal justice. Papers consist of correspondence, speeches, memorabilia, reports, journal and newspaper articles, photographs, and audiotapes relating exclusively to her professional and public life dating from 1905-1974. The bulk of the collection dates from 1954 to the 1960s. It includes writings, speeches, and taped interviews on prison reform, criminal justice, and rehabilitation. There is a substantial amount of material on the New York House of Detention for Women and Kross's efforts to institute major reforms focusing on education and social rehabilitation for women prisoners, as well as some material on juvenile offenders.
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Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC) (1985-2011)
In 1985 Charon Asetoyer, Clarence Rockboy, Everdale Song Hawk, Jackie Rouse, and Lorenzo Dion, a group of Native Americans living on or near the 40,000 acre Yankton Sioux Reservation in southeastern South Dakota, came together to form the Native American Community Board (NACB). NACB’s goals are to improve the quality of life by addressing issues of health, education, land and water rights, and economic development of indigenous people. In 1988 the NACB purchased a house at 810 High Street in Lake Andes and established the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC). SERIES IX. STUDIES AND REPORTS (box 21) includes NAWHERC’s study of the management of domestic violence cases by the county criminal justice system, and SERIES XI. YANKTON SIOUX TRIBE (box 28) contains documentation of NAWHERC’s involvement with local law enforcement issues and jail conditions.
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Kathleen O’Shea (1944 - )
Entered Immaculate Heart Novitiate and became a nun in 1963, where she remained for thirty years. Following that, became a social worker researching female offenders, with an emphasis on women on death row. Has written three books on the subject. Papers include documents and memorabilia from O'Shea's childhood, including her education in becoming a nun; correspondence with close friends; photographs of O'Shea and friends; and a small amount of material pertaining to lesbian former nuns. Also included is research related to O'Shea's writings on women on death row with files on sixty-five women prisoners, including correspondence from some, and videotapes about women in prison, including several about Aileen Wuornos. O'Shea has provided extensive annotation, explanatory notes, and biographical information, which add to the collection's richness and depth.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use. AV materials may not be used until research use copies are made.]
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Prison Birth Project (1997 - )
Western Massachusetts based organization. Founded in 2008 by Lisa Andrews and Marianne Bullock (Smith College AC 2014), the Prison Birth Project "works within a reproductive justice framework to provide support, advocacy, and leadership training with women and trans* people at the intersection of the criminal justice system and parenthood." Their services include doula and breastfeeding support, childbirth education, and advocacy for incarcerated women and their families. This collection includes correspondence, newsletters, 2011 annual report, and other publications related to midwifery and the Prison Birth Project.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]

Susan Rosenberg (1955 - )
Radical leftist activist convicted of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and incarcerated in High Security Unit for Women, an underground prison that subjected inmates to sensory deprivation, isolation, and frequent strip-searches. Pardoned in 2001. The papers are primarily associated with her sixteen years in prison (1984-2001) and include correspondence, legal documents, photographs, poetry and essays written by Rosenberg, course work, her Master's thesis, syllabi for courses she taught while incarcerated, and her personal journals. There is a significant portion of the papers that reflect the constant effort by others to gain Rosenberg's release. There is also a large amount of printed matter relating to the American prison system, the state of political prisoners in this country, and the specific concerns of women in prison.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Voices from Inside (2000 - )
Organization dedicated to promoting creative endeavors of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in Western Massachusetts. Holds several poetry workshops a year as well as readings, and has published two anthologies. Collection comprised mostly of creative work, especially poetry, produced by participants.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]

Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH) (2004 - )
Organization, founded in 2004 and based in New York City, made up of three components: 1) the Core Leadership group which oversees the day-to-day running of the organization; 2) The Sister Circle which provides training and support, both personally and professionally, for WORTH members; and 3) the Speakers' Bureau which represents WORTH at conferences, schools, religious institutions, prisons and other public venues. The records consist of correspondence, emails, conference materials, press releases, meeting agendas and minutes. Major topics include reproductive justice, prison reform, incarcerated mothers and their children, legal advocacy for women, African American women and the U.S. prison-industrial complex, and women's community activism.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Subject Collections

Crime, Prisons, and Reform Schools Collection (1850 – 1977)
Documents the activities and experiences of female criminals, the efforts of social scientists to understand them, the work of prison reformers to improve their treatment, and the changing approaches and methods used by the state to manage them. Types of material include articles, correspondence, drawings, leaflets, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, promotional material, reports, and unpublished papers that focus on the United States and England and span the period from 1857 to 1977. The collection includes some unique 19th century material such as correspondence relating to the founding of the Maine Industrial School for Girls (1862-1890) and correspondence of prison reformer Miriam Van Waters (1930-1969). Organizations represented include the Pennsylvania Program for Woman and Girl Offenders; the Fortune Society; Aid to Incarcerated Women; and the American Civil Liberties Union.
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  • No More Cages: Women's Prison Newsletter, 1980-84
  • Through the Looking Glass: A Women's and Children's Newsletter, 1971-1977

For secondary sources, see the Browsing and Reference collections in the Special Collections Reading Room.

(Note: Special Collections is actively collecting personal papers and organization records documenting the second wave feminist movement, especially those documenting women of color. Please see the complete list of collections or contact us for updated information on our holdings.)