While I hear the history of “debtor prisons,” through many sources, I don’t hear much about the “poor farm” phenomena, which was equivalent. The concept of the poor farm continued to exist in this country as late as 1947!
It would be of interest to find out if educational opportunities were available to children, since whole families were harbored in poor farms and whether medical care was available to assist persons who obviously would not have been able to afford medical services. If the answer to either question was infrequent or never then the poor farm concept was not created to be “reformatory” but rather a dim fate and one of possible death.
It is a grim history and one that does nothing to honor the words on the Statute of Liberty. This country didn’t really welcome poor people, though some obviously passed through U.S. harbors. We talk about values and then there is the reality of American political preferences and selective treatment.