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The prison mirror. [volume] (Stillwater, Minn.) 1887-1894, November 12, 1891, Image 2

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86063465/1891-11-12/ed-1/seq-2/

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•gkt prison fElirror.
Edited and Published by the Inmates.
Entered at the Post Office at Stillwater Minn,
as Second Class Mail Matter.
Subscription Rates.
THE PRISON MIRROR is issued every Thurs
day morning at the following rates.
One Tear
Six Months, 00
Three Montns 25
Single Copies ••••••• }
Subscriptions must be paid invariably in ad
vance. Advertising rates given upon application.
Stillwater, Minn.
THE PRISON MIRROR is a weekly paper pub
lished in the Minnesota state prison. All matter
published In its columns is contributed by the
Inmates, except that properly credited. Its sup
port must come from the outside as every inmate
Is given a paper without cost. It is published in
the Interest of the prison library and after paying
for the printing outfit, contributed $l5O to the
library fund the first year. Its objects are to en
courage individual intellectual effort, provide a
healthy journal for the inmates of this and other
prisons, and, above all, to acquaint the outside
world with the needs of the prison by reflecting
Its Inner life and thus aid the cause of moral ad
vancement and prison reform.
Warden Kanouse, of the Sioux Falls
(S. D.) penitentiary, is to resign his posi
tion in a few weeks. He will go with his
family to Los Augeles, Cal., where he has
started an orange grove.
Tiie Mirror takes great pleasure in not
ing the signs of prosperity borne by its old
friend the Montevideo Leader. The Leader
has always been up to the standard of
weekly papers, but this week it comes out
away above the top of the pile. From a
four-page sheet it jumps at once to an
eight-page and supplement issue. Ability,
industriously applied, rarely fails of its re
* Dr. Charles N. Palmer, a graduate of
Rush Medical college, presidential elector
in 1888, member of the board of pension
examiners, and prominent politician, has
just been sentenced to one year in the
Wisconsin penitentiary on a charge of
burglary. Although the doctor has our
sympathy he deserves what he got for he
should not have had so many irons in the
fire at once. Perhaps this will teach him
to live and let live.
The press is given to making great blun
ders whenever discussing prison matters.
This is due perhaps to the fact that so little
effort is made to gain accurate information.
The effort recently made to put into opera
tion the law which provides for the transfer
of convicts from the state prison to the
reformatory was very badly reported.
They talk about the contaminating influ
ence life prisoners would have on the re
formatory men were they to be transferred
to that institution. In what way would
this influence exert itself? Would the sight
of the life man be contaminating? The
law says that a man’s conduct must have
been good for a period equivalent to a
twenty-one year sentence before he becomes
eligible to transfer. The man who can de
port himself satisfactorily for that period of
time is not likely to be of a very dangerous
disposition. Another thing, there will
never be an alarming number of life timers
live to claim that privilege. There are but
two life men in this prison who could be
sent to the reformatory under the law. It
would seem, though, that an idea has fixed
itself in the minds of some editors that any
life man could be released at any time under
this statute. It was said that Judge Nor
rish, of the board of managers, was espe
cially strong in favor of putting the law in
force because he desired the transfer of a
certain life timer. Had those who took
that view of the case understood the law,
as well as they did the case of the lifer in
question, they would have known that the
law would not apply in his case for at least
thirteen years yet. This case is a fair ex
ample of the correctness (?) of hasty jour
nalistic conclusions. It would be useless to
attempt to set the press aright on such
points, for it is often willfully blind. The
Mirror does not believe in the transfer
idea. It would only be a piece of expensive
red-tapism to transfer a man to the reforma
tory after having served a long sentence in
this prison. The officers of one prison should
be just as competent as those of another to
judge when a man has become fit for lib
erty. That the parole system is the proper
thing no one will dispute who has had act
ual experience in dealing with prison af
fairs, and there is no doubt but that it will
become universal in this country when the
work of dealing with criminals has been
systemized. A number of young men have
been released from this prison within the
past year who, had they been paroled in
stead of released absolutely, would be back
here where they belong or leading more
exemplary lives than what they are. That
the results of this system have been good,
wherever honestly tried, there are abun
dant proofs. The system was adopted in
South Dakota about one year ago, and
since then sixty-two prisoners have been
paroled; and the warden says that to the
best of his knowledge only three of these
men have violated their agreement. That
looks like an almost impossible result when
we take into consideration the weakness
of mankind, and no doubt the warden’s
knowledge was not very full on that
point. Speaking on the subject of trans
ferring prisoners, the editor of the
Minneapolis Journal concludes as fol
lows —and this is sound reasoning: “The
resort of the prison managers is to
conditional pardon and the making of pro
vision for steady employment for the good
record convict outside the prison. Let the
convict feel that there is a place for him
still in the work-a-day world among honest
people, and, in a majority of cases, he will
remain steadfast in his reformation. If he
is going to leave the penitentiary on good
behavior, he should at once be helped to fit
into an honest place in the world. He
should not be sent to a semi-prison.”
In the current number of Church Work—
a paper published in St. Paul by Rev. Dr.
S. G. Smith —appears an article on the
Southern Convict System, contributed by
Secretary H. H. Hart of the state board of
corrections and charities. The article is
largely made up of extracts from a book
recently published by Capt. J. C. Powell
who has had fourteen years’ experience in
charge of Florida prison camps. These ex
tracts tell the most revolting story of cru
elty that ever caused one to turn from
humanity with disgust. George Kennan’s
stories of the cruelties of Siberian prisons
chilled the hearts of readers, yet he saw
nothing in that accursed land so inhuman
as the things told or rather confessed by an
officer of the Florida prison camps. Russia
does pay some little attention to the treat
ment of her exiles, but Florida sells them
body and soul to inhuman leeches —aban
dons them to a fate that can only be com
pared to that of those miserable wretches
the ancient Egyptians ground to death in
their quarries and mines. History says of
these, what might be as well said of those
in Florida, “No rest, no intermission fiom
toil, are given either to the sick or maimed;
neither the weakness of age nor women’s
infirmities are regarded. All are driven to
their work with the lash until at last, over
come with the intolerable weight of their
afflictions, they die in the midst of their
toil. So that these unhappy creatures al
ways expect worse to come than what they
endure at present, and long for death as far
preferable to life.” That is only a general
view—the particulars are wanting. No, not
wanting, for we can draw on modern times
for details. Let Capt. Powell give these
for himself: “We received a negro on a five
years’ sentence, and I put him to work in
the woods. He was afflicted with an in
curable malady, which, while it did not
prevent his getting about, greatly preyed
upon his mind, and a few days after he ar
rived he called to me during one ot my
visits to the squad and asked me if I would
do him a favor. I replied that I would if
it lay in my power. Upon that he bared his
breast. ’Shoot me then,’ he said; ‘don’t
wound me, but shoot me through the heart.
I can’t do this work and there is no use try
ing. The sooner lam dead the better for
me.’ I told him that I could not shoot him
down in cold blood; but if he was really
anxious for death, all he had to do was to
run or make an attack on me and I would
do my utmost to accommodate him. This
view of the case did not strike him favora
him to go back to w’ork.” That isonly
one of several stories that Mr. Hart has
picked out of Capt. Powell’s own book.
Those are not isolated incidents, but of
such things are the days, weeks and years
linked together. The describes
this work in the turpentine woods, which
he drove the sick negro to do, as “severe
to a degree almost impossible to exagger
ate.” The captain must have become hard
ened indeed that he can tell these things of
himself; but he evidently looks upon him
self as a humanitarian and reformer, for he
says of his predecessors: “The story of this
regime is one of almost unrelieved barbar
ity. . . . For example, the guards were
armed with muskets and bayonets. The
latter were carried fixed and when a squad
returned at night they were called into
frequent requisition to keep laggards in
line. Often a man would drop from fatigue
and he would be instantly and mercilessly
prodded with a cruel steel. The legs and
backs of nearly all the convicts were cov
ered with scars of bayonet wounds. The
squads were worked in this manner to make
it possible to work them up to the last mo
ment.” These convicts, it should be re
membered, were worked in chains, so re
sistance to this treatment was impossible.
It is a true saying, and perhaps it always
will be true, that there can be no
employment so vile but what there can
be found men vile enough to do it, and
men in high places to defend it. There
cannot be any great difference between the
moral degradation of the criminal and his
keepers where such a condition of things
exists; and it is, perhaps, nearly right to say
that the difference is often in favor of the
convict. But we should not stop at the
keepers—who, perhaps, do not pretend to
be better than they are —for they are only
the instruments in the hands of the lessee
who, perhaps, sits in the halls of legislation
—one does at least. A lady once remarked,
after having looked from the gallery of the
United States senate down upon the sil
vered head of one of those lessee senators,
that she could see the blood of murdered
convicts dripping from his white locks.
But it is not he alone that is to blame for
the disgrace—he is only one among the
thousands who uphold the system bv their
votes. The state is the responsible party,
but the state is large and it takes a long
time to reach its heart. We are often told
that those convicts are only negroes and to
treat them otherwise would be to treat them
better than they were treated as free men,
and thus make the prisons places of resort
for them. But are they all “only niggers?”
Capt. Powell tells this, and it should be
enough to cause the good people of Florida
to rise in their wrath and crush the infa
mous and monstrous system:
When I had the irons on six men I looked
around for the seventh convict and was
amazed when the sheriff pointed to a very
pretty and handsomely dressed young
woman seated by the door. “There is your
seventh prisoner,” he said. 1 had noticed
the girl when I entered and supposed her
to be his daughter or a member of some
charitable visiting committee, for she had
every appearance of intelligence and refine
ment. ... I dreaded to think of the fate
that awaited her —the only white woman
among a horde of negresses and desperate
and abandoned men in an isolated camp
with nothing, absolutely nothing to sustain
or fortify her for the ordeal.
When I reached the convict camp with
the unfortunate girl she was in such a flut
ter of terror that she walked right behind
me, clinging to my coat. I had inspired
her with some confidence and she was
afraid that I might leave her alone among
all those people. Henderson, the warden,
spoke to her roughly, and his words sent
the blood rushing to her face while her
limbs fairly sank under her. It was alto
gether a sorrowful sight; 1 regret that I
ever saw it. I felt sorry for the girl and
as the time passed it hurt me to see how
shame and desperation did their work.
She donned the stripes in a paroxism of
wild grief, but before long she hardened
herself to her degradation and abandoned
herself to it. It made a bad woman out of
her and her beauty was practically all that
remained of her former self.
A person with a cork leg, corkscrew eyes,
blue-bottle nose, and jug-handled ears,
must be full of spirits.—Texas Siftings.
November 4.
The penitentiary at Waupnn, Wis., narrowly
escapes a disastrous fire.
Two hundred of Tennessee’s liberated convicts
are captured in Kentucky.
The trial of Rev. Charles A. Briggs, for heresy,
before the New York presbytery results in his ac
Seventy thousand acres of land on the Fort
Assinaboine reservation in Montana are opened
to settlement.
A terrible accident happened in the Anaconda
mines at Butte, Mont., causing the death of nine
men. They fell down the shaft 600 feet.
The commission on the Minnesota capitol meets
in St. Paul and decides to recommend that the
state build a new capitol of granite upon the site
of the present building, to cost not more than
November 5.
A man 124 years old and woman 81 are married
in Georgia.
The great banking house of Hirschfleld & Wolff,
Berlin. Germany, fails.
The remains of Jefferson Davis are to be inter
red in Hollywood cemetery, Richmond, Va.
The election returns show that the lowa Demo
crats have elected all the state officers and a ma
jority of the senate. The Republicans have a ma
jority in the house.
Musgrave, the man who insured his life for
f 25,000, placed a skeleton in his Indiana cabin,
set the building on fire and then disappeared, was
captured in St. Paul.
November 6.
J. Gregory Smith, Vermont’s war governor, dies
at St. Albans.
Corcoran-Fulton, distillers of Louisville, Ky.*
makes an assignment.
Two farmers are burned to death in a prairie
fire near White Lake, S. D.
The Parnellites are defeated in the election for
a member of parliament from Cork.
Work is to begin at once on a new bridge to
span the Mississippi river at Alton, 111.
A young woman near North St. Paul is shot
dead by a rejected suitor who afterwards kills
The powers give China a month In which to re
spond to the demand for the punishment of the
leaders in the recent outrages.
A jury has awarded Thomas Fortune,the colored
editor of the New York Age, ¥825 damages against
the proprietor of a Sixth avenue hotel for being
assaulted and refused a drink because of his color.
November 7.
A revival of Fenlanism is expected in England.
A disease nearly as fatal as Asiatic cholera ap
pears in Indiana. It is thought to be what is
known as the Asiatic black tongue.
Another great German bank of Berlin fails. It
was the institution of FreidJand & Sommerfield.
Sommerlield and his son both commit suicide.
Commander-in-chief Palmer, of the G. A. R., is
sues an order denouncing the participation of
members of that body in demonstrations at which
the Confederate flag is displayed.
A good deal of excitement is occasioned by a
rumor that the United States war ship Baltimore
had been blown up and 69 sailors killed by the
Chilians. The scare proved groundless.
November 8
Six men are instantly killed by an explosion in
a coal mine at Nanticoke, Pa.
The most active operations known since the war
are going on in the Navy yards.
Rev. Charles Woodward, one of the oldest
clergymen in Minnesota, dies at Kalmar, near
Rochester. Hon. C. F. Rogers is buried at Lake
Nels Johnson, of Minneapolis, stopping at a
hotel in Hudson, Wis., becomes crazed with drink,
sets his room on fire and then kills himself by
jumping out ot the window.
A great coal pile on the Northwestern Fuel
company's docks ut Duluth has been burning for
several days, and the loss will probably amount to
several huudreds of thousands of dollars.
November 9.
Eighty per cent of the wheat crop in North Da
kota is threshed.
The liabilities of the Maverick bank of Boston
are only a little less than $10,000,080.
Four men are suffocated and thirty-four horses
are cremated by the burning of a livery stable in
Denver, Colorado.
Officers of the Irish National League of Amer
ica issue an address advising Irishmen to stop
fighting and do a little work for the cause.
Charles Barnum, son of M. T. Barnum, is dis
embowled by a wagon tongue at Farmington,
Minn. He died within a few minutes of the acci
The case of the Canadian sealer Sayward, in
volving the rights of this country to exclusive
control of the Behring sea seal fisheries, is argued
in the United States supreme court.
November 10.
The Chilian war cloud has about blown over.
It is said that the Republic of Brazil is about to
go to pieces.
Comanche, the horse that survived the Custer
massacre, dies of old age at Fort Rirey, Kan.
The United States and Great Britain reach an
agreement to submit the Behrnig sea conrtoversy
to arbitration.
Gross irregularities are said to have been dis
covered at the Cheyenne Indian agency. The
agent and others are charged with being the per.

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