This book studies the evolution of institutions of confinement for male
criminals in Lima, Peru, between 1850 and 1935. It reconstructs the social,
cultural, and doctrinal influences that shaped the ways in which law-
breakers were treated, the fate of programs of prison reform, and the
ways in which inmates confronted the experience of prison. It argues that
the operation of Lima prisons during this period reveals the contradic-
tory and exclusionary nature of modernization in Peru. The implementa-
tion of modern rules of discipline and rehabilitative treatment inside the
prisons was, at best, ambiguous, and it shows the lack of commitment on
the part of state o≈cials and prison authorities to the tenets of prison
reform. As a result, a combination of brutality and indi√erence tended to
characterize the way criminals were treated by the criminal justice sys-
tem, and the operation of prisons came to depend on a double-edged and
fragile customary order in which arbitrariness and abuse were much
more prevalent than respect for the prisoners’ rights and their well-being.
Prisons thus became not sites for the regeneration of criminals but bas-
tions of authoritarianism and exclusion.
The reform of prisons—their transformation into regimented institu-
tions for the rehabilitation of prisoners through a strict therapy con-
sisting of mandatory silence and segregation, obligatory work, religious
counseling, and constant, total surveillance—was a political and ideologi-
cal drive initiated in Europe and the United States in the second half of
the eighteenth century. By 1820, the movement had consolidated a new
institutional structure, the penitentiary, which combined in a single set-
ting all the elements prison reformers deemed necessary to transform
unruly criminals into honest, industrious, law-abiding citizens. In Peru,
the initial plan for building penitentiaries was formulated in 1853, and in
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