After World War II, California’s forest labor camps offered prisoners unusual liberties and community respect in return for often dangerous public works labor. But the Golden State’s fast-changing urban and rural landscapes eventually soured residents on this popular prison rehabilitation experiment and turned the conservation camp program into a catalyst for today’s prison geography. Volker Janssen draws on research in the correspondence of the California Department of Corrections to highlight the role of Cold War military culture in prison reform. Exploring the racial, urban-rural, and political conflicts sparked by the conservation camp program, Janssen argues that prisons and incarceration policies are central to understanding the connection between America‚Äôs urban crisis and law-and-order conservatism.

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The full text of the article as it appeared in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of American History.

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