Abstract: (Withdrawn) Lola Baldwin, Social Work, & Detention: Lessons from Carceral Feminist Reforms in Progressive Era Portland (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

(Withdrawn) Lola Baldwin, Social Work, & Detention: Lessons from Carceral Feminist Reforms in Progressive Era Portland

Friday, January 13, 2023
Laveen B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Sam Harrell, MSW, Doctoral Student, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Background: This paper explores the carceral feminist reform work of Lola Baldwin. Baldwin was an elementary school teacher before becoming a volunteer social worker for “wayward girls.” After moving to Portland, Oregon, Baldwin directed efforts to enforce white Victorian moral codes and police female sexuality during the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition. Afterward, she convinced the Police Chief to hire her as a policewoman. Baldwin began an extensive career marked by police professionalization, social feminist interventions, and targeted efforts to criminalize vice (e.g., sex, alcohol, gambling). While Baldwin is most (albeit not well) known for her innovations in preventative policing, her contributions to the women’s reformatory movement have yet to be explored. This archival research study asks, a) What role did Baldwin play in the imagining, design, and funding of prisons across the West and Northwestern United States? and b) How did Baldwin’s social work identity facilitate her prisonwork?

Methods: I locate, evaluate, and systematically analyze primary sources from digital and physical archives, including materials such as Women’s Protective Division reports, War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities reports, official letters from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, handwritten notes, personal scrapbooks, and correspondence. I supplement these materials with information from Progressive Era news articles from publications such as the Sunset Pacific Monthly, the Oregonian, and the Oakland Tribune. I thematically analyze sources using a combination of inductive and deductive approaches. Where possible, I triangulate claims using multiple types of archival data.

Results: Baldwin’s preferred identity as a social worker enabled her to pioneer new forms of preventative policing that would significantly expand the scope and power of law enforcement in the late 20th century. She used her police power to collect and share personal information that would later be used to imprison women. At the same time that she advocated for “alternatives” to prisons and jails, she incessantly fought to increase the length of sentences for girls and women whom she arrested. When judges refused to give women longer sentences out of concern for overcrowded jails, Baldwin organized a coalition of people to assist her in designing, funding, building, and running correctional facilities. Medical detention facilities, women’s prisons, and reformatories for women and girls–each allowed for the implementation of a new penology characterized by indeterminate sentencing, indentured servitude, and social control.

Conclusions and Implications: It has been over a century since Baldwin used her law enforcement experience to inform an influential campaign to create new institutions of confinement across the West and Pacific Northwest. This research adds to a relatively thin knowledge of social work and Progressive Era corrections. The findings offer important insights for the future of macro practice in the criminal-legal system. Baldwin’s legacy is particularly relevant for social workers considering criminal-legal reforms that expand the size and scope of the criminal-legal system in the name of feminism, gender justice, and youth justice (i.e., carceral feminist reforms); as well as social workers exploring the role of social work and police work in the 21st century.