I read with sadness of the death of Thomas Murton (Oct. 22), the scholar and prison reformer whose work served as inspiration for Robert Redford's character in the film "Brubaker." Murton was a free-spirited sociologist who developed and sought to implement a powerful normative vision of a restructured prison system. While his projection was not realized, his proposal to create a closer symmetry between correctional environments and society remains as his legacy.
It was ironic that in the same issue of The Times, a balanced assessment of Proposition 139 was offered. This proposition opens up the possibility of private enterprise contracting for employment of inmates. Although I am not aware of any endorsement by Murton, I believe that the proposition is consistent with his vision. In addition, as a former part-time instructor in state correctional facilities, I believe that non-exploitative private employment of inmates that does not infringe on the rights of labor can reduce the rate of recidivism.
Associate Professor of Sociology
Cal State Fullerton