James V. Bennett played a vital role in the creation and initial operation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. A graduate of Brown then George Washington University, Bennett began his federal government career in 1919 when he was named an Investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Efficiency. Bennett penned “The Federal Penal and Correction Problem” in 1928, which was vital as a catalyst for the creation of the Bureau of Prisons.
The creation of the Federal Prison Industries Inc. in 1934 can be considered as one of his most significant achievements during his tenure. He worked as Assistant Director for the Federal Bureau of Prisons up until 1937 when he was named Director following Sanford Bates’ retirement. As Director, Bennett, was a very active reformer of correctional policies and was an advocate for the rights of prison inmates. He was instrumental in opening special institutions for juveniles, rehabilitation centers and halfway houses.
The materials that make up the James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971 represent a major part of the life and work of James V. Bennett. Significantly, they portray his role as the Director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and a prison reformer. This is achieved primarily through his articles, newsletters, books and as well as other materials. There are also many articles and speeches by Mr. Bennett. The most popular theme is prison policies and reform. This collection also contains numerous correspondence and case histories of prison inmates. Pictorial documentation of Bennett as well as many other important personnel is also represented in this collection. There are also several recordings with songs reflective of prison culture.
View a detailed finding aid of his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.