Over time, California’s missions came to resemble a mass incarceration system in general and penal servitude in particular. This article will describe that process by examining changing policies of recruitment, spatial confinement, regimentation, surveillance, physical restraint, and corporal punishment as well as California Indian resistance. With the help of secular government authorities, Franciscans and their military allies established the system between 1769 and 1790 before deploying more overtly carceral practices between 1790 and 1836. In its conclusion, this article explores the meaning of California’s missions as carceral spaces before suggesting new avenues of research on the history of incarceration within and beyond California.

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