KanColl Books
   The Twin Hells, by John R. ReynoldsTable of Contents



A MISSOURI HELL.


CHAPTER XVIII.

PRISON DISCIPLINE.

     THE Missouri penitentiary ranks among the leading penal institutions of the country in matter of discipline. The rules and regulations are placed in the hands of the prisoners as soon as he enters. If an inmate obeys these rules and regulations he will be let alone, and will go through his term of service without being punished. If he becomes unruly and disobedient he will be punished, and that, too, very severely.

     Each prisoner is allowed one pound of tobacco a month for chewing and smoking purposes. In this prison the inmate is permitted to smoke in his cell. This is the only institution with which I am acquainted that permits smoking. The prisoners seem to enjoy their smoke very much, and I do not see but that it is just the thing, for if a person on the outside takes comfort from the use of his pipe, much more will the man who sits in the solitude of a felon's cell. If a prisoner violates a prison rule his tobacco is taken away

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from him for a time. The majority of the inmates will obey the rules of the prison through fear of having their tobacco taken away from them. Each prisoner also has access to the books of the library, and another mode of punishment is to deprive the offender the use of the library for a time. This, also, has a very salutary effect. Another mode of punishment is to place the unruly convict in a dungeon and feed him nothing but bread and water. The prisoner on entering this dreary abode must leave behind him his hat, coat and shoes, and in this condition he is required often to spend days and weeks in solitary confinement. The dungeon contains no furniture of any description save a night bucket. Prisoners do not remain in these dark holes very long until they promise obedience. It is one of the most successful modes of prison punishment. In case of a second or third offense, and sometimes for the first, in case it is a bad one, the offender is liable to receive a flogging.

     This is one of the few penal institutions on our country where the cat-o-nine-tails is used. When a prisoner's conduct has been such that it is deemed advisable to whip him, he is taken

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from his cell and led to a post in the rear of one of the large buildings, out of sight of the other convicts. His clothing is then removed, with the exception of his shoes. These are left on his feet to catch the blood that flows down his limbs. In this nude condition he is tightly bound to a post with chains. Standing at the post, in a helpless condition, he receives the lash. The whip consists of several leather straps, or thongs, at the end of which small pieces of steel are fastened. Every blow brings the blood. I have been told by reliable persons that, at times, prisoners have been so severely flogged that the blood, flowing down their limbs into their shoes would fill them and run out over the tops. This seems barbarous in the extreme, and my humane reader at once cries out, "It should not be tolerated." In Missouri this flogging of human beings in prison has been going on for more than fifty years. After the punishment is over, the prisoner, half dead with fright and pain, is led back to his cell, where he remains for a day or two, that he may recuperate. He throws himself down on his "bunk," and remains there for hours, the blood still flowing from his lacerated back.

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Often the blanket on which he lies, sticks to his bleeding back, and a fellow convict is asked, often, to assist in removing it. Many a poor fellow carries with him through life the scars which were made while a convict in this prison. One day while I was working in the coal mines of the Kansas penitentiary, a fellow-convict showed me his scarred back. He had served a term in the Missouri penitentiary, and while there had been severely whipped. His back told the story too plainly that his whipping had been a severe and cruel one. It would seem that the day of the whipping-post had passed away; that the doors of our advance civilization were shut against it.

     Many of the prison officials claim that it is the most healthy mode of inflicting punishment; that to place a convict in a dungeon and to feed him on bread and water is far more injurious to his health than to give him a good "paddling," and it don't require so long to do the work. The same results are reached more quickly. Others claim that it is impossible to have good prison discipline without resorting to the lash. This statement is not correct. There is no better discipline to be found in any penal institution, than that in the Kansas

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penitentiary, where no prisoner ever receives a stroke from a whip. The laws of that State forbid it. In our humble judgment it would be the best thing that the Missouri Legislature could do at its next session, to prohibit any further use of the lash. Sometimes a paddle is used, with small holes bored in the end, and every time this paddle strikes the nude flesh, blisters are raised. Again, another instrument of punishment in use is a thick, broad, leather strap, fastened in a wooden handle, at the end of which lateral incisions are made that give it the appearance of a saw. There is no trouble in raising huge blisters "with this engine of warfare." All these modes are barbarous, and should be forbidden. Whenever severe punishment becomes essential, let the prisoner remain in the dungeon, living on bread and water until he promises, in good faith, to behave himself. A great deal of useless punishment can be avoided if the officer in charge of the prison discipline is a humane man and a good judge of human nature, and no other should be permitted to fill this important position. We must not, however, be too hasty in condemning prison officials for harsh treatment of those under their charge.

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They have some of the most desperate men on the face of the earth to deal with, and at times it becomes a necessity to use harsh measures. Notwithstanding this is all true, there are but very few human beings but what have white spots in their otherwise darkened souls, and often a word of kindness does more than a cruel blow from a merciless officer.

     The excellent discipline of this institution is due, in the main, to Captain Bradbury, the deputy warden. He is beyond doubt, one of the best, and most experienced prison men in the United States. He has been connected with the Missouri prison for thirty-three years. The warden looks after the finances of the institution, and it belongs to Captain Bradbury to hold in subjection the two thousand criminals that are crowded together in that small prison enclosure. This celebrated deputy warden is a Virginian by birth. He is sixty-two years of age. He served in the Mexican war, and now draws a pension from the Government, because of his services there. If a prisoner conducts himself properly, Captain Bradbury will treat him as humanely as he can under the circumstances. If he becomes willful and unruly, the Captain

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no doubt will take great pleasure in giving the offender "a good paddling," to use his own forcible expression. This official is a strong advocate of corporal punishment. He claims that a "little loosening up of the hide" of an obstreperous prisoner does the said prisoner a vast amount of good. Among the convicts the deputy warden is austere. He is never seen sauntering about the prison enclosure with his long arms entwined about any of "the boys in stripes." He claims, that too great a familiarity breeds contempt. This seeming harshness when in the presence of the prisoners is only borrowed for the occasion, for, away from the convicts, there is not a more social gentleman in the State of Missouri. Great credit is due to Captain Bradbury for his excellent management of this institution, under such unfavorable circumstances. Could he be persuaded to quit the use of the whipping post, and use other measures less barbarous, I think the same discipline could be secured as now exists. The officers here do not seem to be so exacting as in many other prisons. In the Kansas penitentiary, when prisoners are in ranks going to and from their meals, their cells, or workshops, they are

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required to fold their arms, and keep their eyes fixed upon the back of the one's head just in front. No gazing about is permitted, and should a prisoner speak to one in the front of him and be detected, he would be summarily dealt with. In the Missouri prison I noticed that the convicts while marching would gaze about wherever they wished, and go swinging along with their arms dangling at their sides. In many prisons the inmates are required, while in ranks, to keep their hands on the shoulders of the man in front. This would seem to be the most desirable way of having the prisoners march. In this prison one can detect more of a homelike feeling, not so rigorous and exacting as in many institutions of this nature. Captain Todd, assistant deputy warden, is another official of long standing. He has been with this prison for eighteen years, and is very popular. In this connection we must not fail to mention Captain Crump, who has been connected with this prison for thirty-six years, but who was discharged during the last administration because of his making statements to the effect that the prison was run by a political "ring." He is now deputy marshal of Jefferson City, and is

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a faithful officer. He incurred the displeasure of the contractors because of the grave charges he made against them, because of their inhuman demands upon the prisoners, requiring of them more work than they were able to perform. Because of his humaneness, and because he wanted to see the helpless prisoner treated as he should be, after thirty-six years of faithful service was discharged from the institution. In 1883 there was an investigation made of many serious charges preferred against the contractors and some of the leading officials. The committee made their report to the governor, and some five hundred pamphlets containing this report were printed for distribution. When the Legislature met none of these books could be found, and the whole matter was a specimen of whitewash. The report contained some very damaging charges, but nothing was ever done with the matter. I visited the office of the secretary of state and asked to see one of these books, but even his office did not contain a copy of this State document. The Legislature should keep a watchful eye over this penal institution, and, while there should be good discipline maintained,

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the prisoners should not be treated in a barbarous manner.

A PARDONING BOARD.

     The governor has the pardoning power. He extends executive clemency to a number annually. He has not time to attend to the duties connected with this prerogative. There are 2,000 prisoners. No doubt many of them have excessive sentences. If a thorough investigation was made, many would be found innocent. The governor has not the time to attend to these matters. There should be a pardoning board appointed to investigate these cases and advise with the governor. To show the necessity of such a board, I have only to state that during the past year the Pardoning Board of Kansas has advised executive clemency to fifteen criminals who received their pardons on the grounds of innocency. One of the number being a Mrs. Henrietta Cook, who was sentenced for life, and who had served fifteen years of imprisonment, when, upon an investigation of her case by the Pardoning Board, she was discharged, there being no doubt as to her innocence. The great majority of these prisoners are poor,

Undergoing Punishment


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and friendless. They have no one on the outside to aid them in securing their rights, and unless a pardoning board is appointed to investigate these cases, many a man and woman entirely innocent, will have to serve out a sentence in this prison.

     It is but natural for the contractors to use their influence to prevent the men under their control from receiving pardons. If a man is sentenced for ten years, and has been in one of the shops for two or three years, and has learned to do his work well, the contractor will want to keep him instead of letting him go, and will, no doubt, in an underhanded way, do all against the poor prisoner he can. This strong influence in many cases will have to be counteracted and overcome before the prisoner can receive his pardon and obtain his liberty. A pardoning board, when appointed, should be men who would not be in collusion with the contractors, but be men who would see that the prisoner had justice.




The Missouri Prisoners, Continued      Noted Convicts     Table of Contents