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Jail On Wheels


By Jacqui Shine with a Foreword by Mariame Kaba

Published by Half Letter Press, this booklet takes an in depth and illustrated look at the mobile pedagogical nightmare called the Jail On Wheels, which sought to reduce crime by scaring people into obeying the law. The Jail On Wheels is a precursor to the more damaging, and equally ineffective, Scared Straight programs that followed.

From Mariame's introduction to the publication:

"In the late 1930s, a local sheriff named J. Edward Slavin came up with an idea. He wanted to create a mobile exhibit that would prevent juvenile delinquency. Thus Jail on Wheels was born in 1947. The specially designed buses included “crime prevention” equipment such as handcuffs, fingerprinting kits, weapons, tear gas, grenades, bulletproof vests, a resuscitator, and a “Drunkometer.” The Jails on Wheels also featured a jail cell and a replica of an electric chair and gas chamber. I asked historian Jacqui Shine to write about the Jail on Wheels program and its founder. Her writing here contextualizes Jail on Wheels within the 1940’s moral panic of juvenile delinquency, the rise of prison tourism, and as a precursor to later “Scared Straight” programs. She also helps us to better understand the program’s founder and his motivations."

2014 | half-letter, staple bound, offset printed, 44 pages