When a Boston school teacher, Dorothea Dix, agreed to teach a Sunday school class at a local jail as a favor to a friend, she was shocked by the conditions of the prison. Inmates were chained up and in cages, children were in the same jail as adults, inmates were crowded into dark, damp cells, and there was very little food. Debtors and children were in the same cells as murderers and rapists, and the mentally ill were treated horribly. Dorothea was so shocked, but she didn't believe all jails were that bad. She decided to go tour other jails in Massachusetts, and was very surprised that they were very similar. She issued a report to state legislature, and lawmakers voted to create new mental hospitals for the mentally ill. After this, other reforms to prison were made, such as the discontinuing of debtors' prisons, and a creation of a special justice system for children (also called Juvenile Detention Centers.)
The spirit of reform found it way to schools in the mid-1800s. Few children went to school in this time period, because it cost so much to attend. Horace Mann led efforts to change this practice, and earned the nickname "father of American public schools." Mann served as the head of the state board of education in Massachusetts. He gave several speeches about the importance of public schools in producing educated citizenry. He influenced the public to see education as a way to solve problems in society, such as crime and poverty. Massachusetts citizens voted to pay taxes for open schools, better schools, and higher salaries for teachers. These ideas spread across the country, eventually leading to the education systems we know today.