What is now called Auburn Correctional Facility has been open in Auburn since 1817, and it is the oldest continually operating prison in the country. Auburn's claim to being the preeminent American prison is bolstered by its many firsts. Auburn was the first prison in the world to house convicts in individual cells and the first prison in the country to employ a chaplain and put a matron in charge of the women prisoners. Auburn Prison developed the widely duplicated system of inmate management that became known as the Auburn System, a totally silent regimen of forced labor and complete control. Auburn was the first prison to separate mentally unstable inmates from the general population and was the site of the world's first use of the electric chair for capital punishment. The prison was at the front line of the prison reform movement in the early 20th century when Thomas Mott Osborne was voluntarily incarcerated and helped found the Mutual Welfare League in Auburn Prison in 1913.
Author Bio: Eileen McHugh is the director of the Cayuga Museum of History and Art and Auburn city historian. She has drawn upon the museum's extensive photographic archives to create a moving visual history of the prison. Michael Pettigrass is a correction counselor in the guidance unit at Auburn Correctional Facility. His interest in the prison's rich history has led him to serve, for many years, as the unofficial historian of the facility.
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