James V. Bennett visiting with a prisoner in his cell


James V. Bennett speaking to a prisoner in a prison cell

James V. Bennett played a vital role in the creation and initial operation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 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. 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.These efforts are reflected in his mantra that “We must not rob a man of all hope.” The first “open prison’ was instituted by Bennett in 1938 in Seagonville, Texas. This was a no walls, no bars and a gun free facility. He became president of the National Parole Conference in 1939 and later served as President of the Washington Council of Social Agencies. The Celler-Hennings Act was enacted in 1958 as a result of Bennett’s advocacy for more equity in the process of federal sentencing. The Act empowered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to make sentencing recommendations to the judiciary as well as recommendations relating to sentencing reform.

View photographs from the James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971: here

View Finding Aid for the James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971 : here


Sanford Bates Collection, 1906-1972


Sanford Bates (on left) outside the Bureau of Prisons.

Sanford Bates had a storied career in the field of law and criminal justice. He was practicing lawyer in Boston, member of the Massachusetts Legislature and Senate, first Massachusetts Department of Corrections Commissioner, and first Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Sanford Bates also served as the Executive Director of the Boys Clubs of America, New York State Parole Commissioner, and Commissioner of Institutions and Agencies for the State of New Jersey.  Sanford Bates was involved with the United Nations and other international commissions during the later years of his life.

The Sanford Bates Collection (1906-1972; forty one boxes) consist of documents, reports, brochures, and correspondence concerning Sanford Bates throughout his career as one of the country’s most influential criminologists and prison administrators. His contributions to prisoner rehabilitation were vast and the collection includes many of his progressive papers.  Some of the many subjects include: state and federal prison administration, juvenile delinquency, probation, parole, correctional standards and staff training.  Along with the publications by Sanford Bates, the collection holds articles by many significant criminologists of the time, criminal justice newsletters and articles, and Bates’ personal library of books.

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.