Street Children, Crime, and Punishment in Puerto Rico, 1940-1965


LAC Burkhardt


American Studies and Black Studies


For residence at the Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean & Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut during academic year 2018-2019


“Street Children, Crime, and Punishment” is the first historical study of street children and incarcerated youth in post-World War II Puerto Rico. Children in jails and correctional schools suffered from overcrowding, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene, insufficient food, prolonged solitary confinement, physical abuse, and sexual violence. They were imprisoned without due process and housed in underfunded and poorly staffed institutions that lacked basic educational and rehabilitation programs. While scholars characterize the post-World War II era as a time of economic growth, industrialization, urbanization, and social mobility in Puerto Rico, these national narratives of progress omit the lives of working-class and poor children. “Street Children, Crime, and Punishment” corrects the record by examining the effects of Puerto Rico’s midcentury modernization and the resulting penal system from the perspective of those who bore the brunt of it: street children and incarcerated youth.