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abstract: During World War I, Eastern State Penitentiary Warden Robert J. McKenty sought to facilitate military service for felons paroled from his institution. At least 121 individuals—commemorated on a plaque located in the Prison Rotunda—were purported to serve in the American military despite clear restrictions against inducting former and current criminals. After assessing the nature of criminology and penology in Progressive-Era Pennsylvania, this article considers McKenty’s views on redemptive rehabilitation both as a factor in the inmates’ military service and as a validating marker in reclaiming their civic masculinity.
Pennsylvania History is the official journal of the Pennsylvania Historical Association, and copyright remains with PHA as the publisher of this journal.