In 1897, the Wisconsin state legislature approved the creation of the Wisconsin State Reformatory on a 200-acre site between Green Bay and De Pere. It was born during a period of profound change when liberal reformers began to question the traditional punitive approach employed in American prisons. The result was a shift from a punishment-based system to one that favored progressive rehabilitation within the framework of the traditional prison model. Elmira, New York, may have served as the reformatory model, but other state embraced the idea more fully than Wisconsin. For more than 50 years, the Wisconsin State Reformatory remained faithful to the reform mission, adapting to changes when necessary but always maintaining a strong link to its past.
Michael E Telzrow, Neville Public Museum of Brown County