ABSTRACT

Prison journalism was born in the squalor of an eighteenth-century debtors' prison. New York restricted the movement of its imprisoned debtors so that they could not even purchase food or supplies from merchants near the jail. In the late 1790s, for instance, the city's ruling body rejected a request from the prison keeper "that provisions be made for the lighting, white-washing, and cleaning the jail." In the early 1800s, many imprisoned debtors owed less than twenty-five dollars, often as little as ten. On March 24, 1800, Forlorn Hope was published, carrying an open letter to the public. The campaign to end the imprisonment of debtors and to promote general prison reform was Forlorn Hope's central mission. The growing prison reform movement in the city in recent years had focused its attention on those inmates imprisoned for debt.