The American Prison System
Salem, Oregon: Printed for the author at the Oregon State Penitentiary, 1920.
First Edition. Hardcover. Fine. 262 pp. A fine copy in original cloth. Webb spent ten years incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary, providing him with more than sufficient material for this reasoned and well written critique. He argues that the prison system is purely punitive and utterly fails to rehabilitate prisoners: "Every prison is a school for crime....As a rule, instead of prison changing [the convict] to an honest man, it makes him a more vicious man. It generally destroys the little good character he has left." He identifies failures in the legal system, sentencing, prison employment programs, and attempts at rehabilitation through religion. Although ultimately "more is expected of prisons than they can possibly fulfill," and other social reforms are needed to address the problem of crime, Webb still believes that serious attempts at rehabilitation are worthwhile. "Force prisons out of politics and place men in charge who understand humanity. For of all tasks, there is no greater than that of remaking men."