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MICHIGAN STATE PRISON.
The enactment of the State Legislature of 1837 recognized the inefficiency of the county jail system, and at the same time the necessity which existed for a central house of punishment, where those to whom the name “convict” properly applies should be held until their crimes were fully expiated. A visitor to the prison in the winter of 1878 inquired closely into the working of every department of the institution, and made the result the subject of an historical sketch. He states that in 1837 the law-makers of the new State realized, even at that early day, the inadequacy of the county jail system to meet the ends of justice, and accordingly decreed that the State prison should be located at the village of Jackson. Some 32 acres of land were donated by individnals to the State for this purpose, the work of erection was begun in 1838, and the building finished during the following year.
Benjamin Porter was the first_agent, and the first convict who stepped across the threshold was John McIntyre, who, at the ripe age of 45 years, was sentenced at Detroit, January, 1839, to one year's imprisonment for larceny. He was accompanied by 10 others from Wayne county.
THE ORIGINAL DOMICILE
of chained vagabonds was a long story-and-a-half building, a frame house, and the convicts slept in bunks, five or six tiers in height. To lessen their chances of escape, each prisoner wore a ball and chain, and when retiring for the night these chains were fastened to posts, fixed at convenient intervals. Around the prison buildings was a stout stockade of tamarack poles, 30 feet in height, which gave rise to the cant saying, in reference to a man sent to State's prison, "He's gone to the Tamaracks." There is a tract of land containing 20 acres belonging to the prison on the east and outside the prison enclosure. The most of this was a tamarack swamp and
About 1860 this was cleared of timber and chaparral and the surface drained, and more recently has been under-drained and made fit for cultivation.
. THE FLIGHT OF THE CONVICTS.
As might be expected, the building was soon found utterly unsuitable for a prison. In 1840, about a year after it had gone into operation, a party of eight or ten convicts overpowered the guards and broke out. For the purposes of offense and defense, they kept together in an organized gang, and traveled over the State in a westerly direction, robbing the farm houses and abusing their occupants on the way. At Spring Arbor a farmer, named James Videto, undertook, with fowling piece in hand, to stop their prog
ress; but, as the old inhabitants relate," they came near enough to Videto to see that he had no cap on his gun, and accordingly fell upon him and beat him in such an inhuman manner that he was left for dead on the highway." The gang were all re-captured with two exceptions. The leader, George Norton, was shot and killed by Dorus Spencer, a farmer.
A NEW PRISON.
The next Legislature clearly saw that this kind of thing would not do, and made an appropriation for the improvement and strengthening of the prison. A stone wall 14 feet in height took the place of the tamarack poles in 1842, and shortly afterward a stone building, containing a block of cells, was erected. This structure, in the present prison, is known as the
56 west wing."
The block is four stories in height and contains 328 cells,--precisely alike in size,-all being three and one-half by nine feet, and seven feet in height, with grated iron door in front, and approached on the upper tiers by iron stairways and galleries on the outside. The east wing, which is almost identical in size, number of cells, and appearance, was built in 1857. The same year a prison was built especially for convicts sentenced to solitary imprisonment for life.
THE SOLITARY SYSTEM
was continued for 10 years, when the Legislature abolished it. Since 1867 prisoners sentenced to solitary imprisonment are treated in the same manner as other convicts. Although discontinued as a system, it is still enforced for limited terms against prisoners who refuse to work, attempt to escape or otherwise violate the regulations.
In 1856 females were imprisoned here for the same crimes as those committed by males, and a separate building with 30 cells was erected for their accommodation. In 1871 the gallant Solons at Lansing, recognizing the inherent superiority of the fair sex and their power of damaging even the discipline of a State prison, enacted that female convicts, except when sentenced for life for murder in the first degree, shall be imprisoned in the Detroit House of Correc
In 1878 there were but three female life convicts in the State, and only one is an inmate of the prison. Her name is Mrs. Baker, the woman who poisoned her three children at Battle Creek in 1863. At that time she performed domestic duties and lived at the war. den's house. The other two are in the Jackson county jail, for the reason that in the State prison there is “no place to put them." Both of the solitary-imprisonment buildings were torn down. The death penalty was abolished in this State in 1847.
THE PRESENT PRISON,
a full-page view of which will be found on page 115, is a very imposing affair, compared to the long, low, wooden shed in which convicts were confined in the early days of the State. A stone wall 24 feet in height surrounds the building on the sides and rear, and also part of the front. On this wall are erected turrets, in which the guards, who pace the parapet all day, with Remington rifles on their shoulders, take refuge in stormy weather. The grounds comprise 32 acres, the prison building occupying a square space of 12 acres. In the front building are the offices of warden and chaplain, one forming the prison library and business office. On a movable window pane of the agent's office is the inscription, " Tickets 25 cts.," indicating the amount of fee paid by visitors who wish to explore the curiosities of prison life. This building projects from the line of the prison wall some 40 feet. Behind this is the central building, four stories high. On the first floor are the offices of the surgeon and hall-master, and doors at either end of the hallway lead into the east and west wings, before described. On the second floor is the guard-room, a spacious apartment, opening into which are the offices of the deputy-warden and minor officials. Above this, on the third floor, is the chapel, with a seating capacity of over 400; there is also a gallery capable of seating 100 visitors. The fourth floor is taken up by a hospital, a large, clean, bright rotunda, with two tiers of sick rooms, the upper tier approached by staircases and a gallery on the four sides.
In rear of the west wing is the convicts' dining hall,--a large apartment, furnished with rows of long tables, 12 inches in width, and small stools. The apartment is garnished with several ambiguous mottoes hung around the walls. Leading from the dining hall is the kitchen, where all the cooking is done for about 900
The steward is assisted by a convict squad of 35 cooks, bakers and scullions, and the appliances and utensils are on a scale commensurate with the culinary requirements of the institution. Three large copper boilers, shining like burnished gold, with a capacity of 35 gallons each, are the receptacles in which the coffee is made and sweetened. The meat, which invariably consists of fresh beef, pork and mutton, is cooked in large iron boilers, the soup in Brobdingnagian bottles, and the potatoes in gigantic steamers. The wheat bread is kneaded by a half-dozen foury artisans, and baked in enormous ovens.
The bill of fare is on the same colossal scale. The quantity of food used varies from day to day, with the ever-changing number of convicts in the prison.
Feb. 21, 1878, the number of convicts within the walls was 832. This is more than the usual average, and, in fact, more than can be accommodated with cells. The overplus sleep on cots in the
corridors of the wings,-a decided advantage over being cooped up in the small, unventilated cells. The following bill of fare for a week, based upon a daily average of 7863 rations, shows the regular diet of the prison : Sunday-B. Hash; wheat-bread, 310 lbs., and coffee.
D. Mutton stew; potatoes, 10 bushels; corn-bread,
600 lbs. Monday-B. Codfish, 200 lbs; potatoes, 9 bushels; wheat
bread, 310 is; baked apples, 9 bushels, and coffee. D. Pork, 330 lbs; beans, 41 bushels; wheat-bread,
420 lbs; vinegar, 7 gallons. Tuesday-B. Hominy, 120 lbs; syrup, 15 gallons; baked ap
ples, 9 bushels; wheat bread, 310 lbs; coffee. D. Fresh beef, 750 lbs; potatoes, 11 bushels; wheat
bread, 420 lbs; dressing. Wednesday-B. Hash; wheat-bread; coffee.
D. Vegetable soup, 299 gallons; wheat-bread,
420 lbs. Thursday–B. Codfish, 200 lbs; potatoes, 9 bushels; baked ap
ples, 9 bushels ; wheat-bread, 310 ibs; coffee.
Fresh beef, 310 is; potatoes, 10 bushels;
wheat-bread, 420 lbs; dressing Friday-B. Hash; wheat-bread, 310 lbs; coffee.
D. Pork, 249 lbs; fresh beef, 155 lbs; beans, 41 bush
els; vinegar, 6 gallons.; wheat-bread, 420 lbs. Saturday-B. Hash; wheat-bread, 310 ibs; raw onions, 31
bushels. D. Fresh beef, 700 ibs; potatoes, 10 bushels; beet
pickles, 5 bushels; wheat bread, 420 lbs; dressing.
which is eaten in the cells, is invariably bread and coffee, about nine ounces of bread being served out to each convict.
The total cost per week of these mountains of solid and rivers of liquid food is $578.81, and the average cost per convict per day 107 cents. This is simply the cost of the raw food. The total expense for food for January, 1878, was $2,600.
A department of education has been instituted in the State's prison at Jackson. The schedule of studies laid down embraces reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, geography, grammar, United States history, bookkeeping, civil government, natural philosophy, physiology and hygiene and mental and moral philosophy. The regular course will extend three years, and sessions will be held each evening, Sunday excepted. The idea underlying the experiment is, that as ignorance begets crime, so may education make men better.