Basically, the National Prison Congress brought forth many ideas of how penology should work in America along with the various ways to make prison a safe place for criminals and the ideals of how to handle prisoner's reformatory discipline while behind bars. In fact, the National Prison Congress experimented with different techniques that allowed the world to sit in on the conversations that took place to see what was working in America and how the other nations could incorporate America's ideas into their prisons. The meetings were held yearly so that everyone could voice their opinions.
"A gathering of wardens, prison officers, and interested academics working in the area of penology ... Declaration of Principals stressed the need for a professional prison ..." (Johnson, H. & Wolfe, N., 2003) The principals wanted to institute a form of discipline in all prisons. Zebulon E. Brockway brought forth many ideas and one was based on reforming prisoners while behind bars so that they are prepared to reenter society with a lower crime rate.
Brockway stressed that the true prison system would be to protect society from crime and that an impartial board would be established to decide when a prisoner could be released.
Brockway's vision was that all inmates would have their own space (cell), access to reading materials, food, and the rights for religious practicing while serving their sentences. He also felt that given the prisons area, an industrial or agricultural establishment could be used in two ways; to give inmates a chance to learn a trade and the profits to go back to the institution. Brockway's ideas made him key in his field and he was able to preside over Elmira in 1877.
Johnson, H. & Wolfe, N. (2003). History of Criminal Justice. Anderson Publishing Co., Third edition. Pg. 255 - 57