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Full text of "Memorial of Miss D.L. Dix, : In relation to the Illinois penitentiary"

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Laid on the table and 3,0UJ copies ordered to be printed. 

To the Honorable, ihz General Assembly of the Slate of Illinois. 

Gentlemen: The reasonable claims of humanity, not less than the requisi- 
tions of justice, require that you sliould have a clear understanding of the system 
on which the State Penitentiary is establisiied; its general organization; its advan- 
tages, if indeed it possess any; and its defects, as well of location as of archi- 
tectural arrangements and daiiy discipline. 1 believe that I can represent those 
to you impartially. I have confidence, that, for palpable cirors, you -will not de- 
lay to search out and applj- a remedy; and I therefore lake the liberty of solicit- 
ing your attention to the actual condilion ol the State Penitentiary at Alton; to 
the system which has most unfortunately been adopted for tiie disposition of con- 
vict labor; as also to the daily discipline, and its inlluences in this priscn; annual- 
ly becoming more populous, and which will probably more than triple its inmates 
in a few years. Your vast extent of territory, now promising more rapid setlle- 
mei.t, insures this result. I think you will acknowledge the wisdom, not only of 
guarding the present, but of taking a prospective view ol" this serious question. 

Within the last eight months, 1 have seen a good deal of the citizens of Illi- 
nois individually, and of the state of society in general, and I entertain no ap- 
prehension that the disinterested and impartial deliberations of her Represcnta- 
tive.^ concluded by efficient legislation, will not be sanctioned by all who re- 
gard the well-being ol communities, and the honor of the State; as well as looking 
higher, owning their obligations to employ all consistent measures for the restora- 
tion of the guilty from an evil and criminal, to an amended liJe. ,,.--' 

There is certainly no substantial cause why the State prison of Illinois should 
hold so low a rank, compared wilh many State prisons in the Union; — those of 
Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Connccticul and Ohio, for example: and if 1 do 
not cite the best prison, as viewed under all aspects, the Eastern Penitenliary, in 
Pennsylvania, it is because I would, lor the present, be almost Avell satisfied to 
see this take a respectable place near the tirst named, and under a system which, 


nccordinc: to my conviclions, is but secondary in procuring the results at which 
we should aim in the imprisonment of criminals, viz: the security ol" sociely, 
and more e><peci;illy the refurmuiion of the convict. 

It cannot be, that the rising Slate of Illinois will vohintarily refuse to adopt the 
improvements introduced of late years, in the construction of j)risons,and in the 
moral discipline of prisoners, while almost the whole civilized world is thinking 
and legislating upon these great questions ; and which allect the whole aspect of 
society inhnitely more than is now comprehended by those who rule, and those 
who are ruled. 

Eclbre entering specially upon the affairs of the prison at Alton, it is but jus- 
tice to observe, that my remarks in no wise point censuringly to the Lessees of 
the prison, or to any of the officers employed therein. These are not at all, in 
the first instance, accountable, either lor the defects of the system, or for those 
of daily discipline: for, to require of officers, results, the means for carrying out 
which are not supplied, would be an absurdity, illustrating both weakness and 
injustice in the State Government. 

I first visited the prison at Alton, in May, 1846; and, at that season, as since, 
have been received by all the officers on the grounds, with civility and respect. 
My many inquiries have been responded to with courtesy, and niy objects as a 
criticising visitor, have been materially aided and advanced. 

State officers, as ^Vardens and their Deputies, or Lessees and their Clerks, will 
be very likely to conform to whatever system is established by law, and to such 
details in discipline as sliall be prescribed by the Legislature, or the Inspectors by 
the Executive appointed. Therelbre, it is to this body, the Representatives of 
the people, that we arc first to look for an enlightened and carefully devised sys- 
tem of Prison Discipline. 

The oflice of a Representative of many minds, involves very grave and high 
responsibilities. The peace, the prosperity, the honor of States, depend upon 
the intelligence and fidelity with which these duties, in their various forms of ob- 
ligation, are discharged. To lill, in an upright, manly and honest manner, a seat 
in the halls of the Capitol, is no sinecure. Hoping that the respectable and nu- 
merous Assembly now appealed to, view their obligations in a clear light, I have 
lelt encouraged to make representations, and offer suggestions, which otherwise 
I might not have attempted. 

The first and most obvious objection advanced agains^t the prison at Alton, is its 
ill-chosen location; than which, both in view of liealth and convenient internal 
arrangements, none could be worse. Instead of constructing and inclosing this 
prison upon the table land, which extends back from the crest of thcblulFs, or in- 
closing a sufficiently open area on the level below, the Commissioner which ex- 
ecuted the trust bestowed by the State, of locating the prison upon the ten acres 
given to Government by Mr. Russell, for this purpose, caused to be inclosed a space 
upon the abrupt, nay, precipitous descent of the bluff cast; a portion of the prison- 
buildings on the west being erected as substitutes for part of the inclosing wall, 
and absolutely on the edge of the descent; so much of the space within, being 
levelled, excavated, or filled up, as might serve to lay the foundations of the 
same. The other buildings put up from time to time, now crowd the small area, 
impeding at once the business of the prison, obstructing the passages, and threat- 
ening the health of all who occupy the premises, by the exclusion of a free cir- 
culation of air. As for the buildings, I have never, in any prison, save the old 
Indiana prison at Jeffersonville, seen any so ill-contrived, ill-built, and ill- 
suited for the purposes they were to subserve. The materials and work are infe- 
rior in quality and kind. In seasons of rain, and in winter, the flow of water, 
and falls of snow, over the inclined surface, which seems never to have been gra- 
ded or McAdamized, produces a depth of mud, through which, as I can fully testify 

it is in nowise easy to make way; or an ill-covered foot-way, ascending or de- 
scending, which it is diiiicult, and sometimes even perilous, to traverse. As 
there are no suflicient drains and sluice-ways, the water makes passages in small 
streams, or by slower and often more destructive percolations, beneath the foun- 
dations of the buildings, and the base of the lofty eastern wall; on the one hand 
rendering the shops damp and wet, and on the other steadily advancing the pro- 
cess of undermining the most expensive, because necessarily the highest portion 
of the inclosing wall, which here ascends above thirty feet. 

The second prominent defect of this prison, is, the confined limits within the 
walls, viz: one acre and five-sixths, bearing most disadvantageously upon all bu- 
siness to be carried on within the same, and prospectively threatening the health, 
or ratlier insuring the ill-health, of all the inmates. I'he entire prison inclo- 
sure is compassed by a wall, measuring 320 feet by 290. This area, which as 
before stated, occupies, not a level, but a precipitous declivity, contains the fol- 
lowing named buildings, most of which require either repairs, additions, or en- 
tire replacement: 1st. Guard house; 2d, Warden's dwelling,, a kitchen beyond 
and a smoke house, in all extending seventy-six feet; 3d, Lodging prison, sixty 
seven by forty-four outside the walls; 4th, Dining room and cook room, one 
hundred feet by twent^'-five; 5th, Tailor's shop, (frame,) adjacent to the pre- 
ceding, sixteen feet by twelve; 6th, Stable, thirty feet beyond No. 5 — measur- 
ing sixteen feet by forty; 7th, Ropo walk, sixty-seven feet -below the dining 
room, is two hundred and forty feet by twenty-five; 8th, Wagon and smith shops, 
thirty-seven feet by thirty-seven feet; 9th, Hemp factory, thirty-four feet by 
forty-four; lOth^ Boiler rooms, (engine?) entry and dry house, thirty feet by 
thirty; llih, Pole house, thirty-one feet by fifty; 12th, Office, twenty-one feet by 
thirteen; 13th, Inclosed wagon way, thirty-six feet by sixteen; I4lh, Cooper 
shop on the south wall, ninety -four feet by twenty-five; 15th, On the eastern 
wall, do. two hundred and seventy feet by twenty-five; 16th, Machine shop, 
between hemp factory and cooper shop, thirty-three feet by thirty-five; 17th, The 
well. Most of the remaining space is necessarily often occupied by the coarse 
and bulky materials employed in the different factories, and the completed works 
wrought from those materials, as barrels, wagons, &c. There, too, in the crowded 

^^pace, we find imperfect drainage, obstructed circulation of air, and accumulat- 
ing vegetable substances quickened into deleterious fermentation by the wetness 
of the place, for months every year; and for these obvious present and threaten- 
ing evils, no remedy is applied. 

^y^ The Legislature of 1833, governed by a somewhat unseasonable spirit of econ- 
omizing for the present, and thus burthening the fuhire, authorized- the Inspectors 
to cause " to be laid oft", lots for stores and dwelling-houses, with intersecting 
streets, and to make sale of the same at public vendue;" and in conclusion, to 
" apply the proceeds to the construction of a substantial wall,* and work-shops 
within the same of such size and dimensions as they might think most advanta- 
geous!" This was done; and now, when the most valuable part of the ten acres 
given to the State, whereon to construct a prison, has been sold to individuals, (it 
is true, by the consent of the donor,) we hear of a proposition to purchase land 
at an advanced price for the purpose of enlarging the area, and affording space 
for the re-construction of shops, &c. One thing is certain ; if the prison be per- 
manently established at Alton, this must be done: for, notwithstanding the In- 
spectors in their Report of 1844, December, declare "that they are happy to 
state, that the number of convicts is gradually decreasing, and it is probable, from 
present appearances, that no furiher addition of cells will be needed, at least be- 
fore the next regular session of the Legislature," we find that the hopes of these 

A portioD of this baa twice or thrice fallen ! 

1 0033 1 5 


gentlemen havo not been realizoJ. The niimberof convicts has constantly ex- 
ceeded the number of cells; and it is evident that the prison population will be 
continually increased, as the State itsell" gain inhabitants, and villages grow in- 
to towns, and towns arc absorbed into cities. Illinois possesses vast internal 
resources, and is nut destined to become a waste wilderness; and we no where 
find that prisons become less necessary, or less crowded, as the tide of busi- 
ness and prosperity abr^ud rises. A new and higher order of society must ex- 
ist before prisons can be safel)' abolished. 

Uf the work shops in general, one may sum up the condition in {&\\ words: 
They all are, except the hemp factory, and tlut has recently been partially de- 
Rtroyctl by fire, either temporarily thrown up, out of repair, or inconvenient in 
V^ocaliun or construction. 'Ihat which demands earliest attention, appears to be 
the cooper shop. Complaints were made in 1840-'4l, of the want of suita- 
ble workshops, stock, &c. In 1842-M3, the same deficiencies are represented, 
and a bill summed up, of $242 00, for reconstructing the cooper shop. In 1844, 
the Inspectors state, that "the principal workshop being burned in the f^pring 
of 1843, and it being the property of the State," they thought it better that so 
important a building should be put up in a. permaneni, rather than a temporary 
manner. "V/c, consequently, contracted with the Lessee, for a shop to be built 
of stone, extending the length of the eastern wall," (270 feet.) " and a part of 
the south," (94 feet about,) '■ to be well inclosed, and partition walls running 
across at convenietit intervals, -so as to separate the convicts from each other 
when at work. This building is completed, and at a cost, as per bills rendered, 
of $1,939 15." ''The above work was done under the immediate direction and 
supervision of the Inspectors, and completed in a substantial and workmanlike 
maimer." Let us refer for the exce'lence of this work, to the next following 
biennial report, 1845-'46;and which corresponds w-ith my own observations: — 
"We would call your attention to the workshops (cooper shv.p,) which as now 
situated, are both uncomfortable and unsafe, being attached to the outside wall 
of the prison, and necessarily much lower than the wall, leaving the shops con- 
tinually filled with smoke, and from the flatness of the roof, entirely unfit for use 
in wet weather; also the continual use of tires in the cooper shops, against the 
wall, (that is the inclosing wall, — not of the shops in the lirst instance, but of 
the premises,) on the east, will, in a very short time, ruin the wall; so that, 
should it not fall of its own weight, (being 30 feet high,) it will very easily be 
broke through; and though the roofs are low, they are of sufficient height lo leave 
it very easy to scale the walls." "We recommend that the work shops be re- 
moved from the walls." It is really unfortunate, that, season after season, year 
after year, works in this prison should be put up and pulled down with such 
utter disregard to method, commodious plans, security, permanence and exjiense. 
I proceed to review the cost, and the value, as well as the present condition of 
the inclosing walls, which are of irregular height and thickness, and on all sides 
require, if the prison is to be permanently located here, large outlays for repairs, 
&c. In 1833, the Inspectors were autliorized to build a suhsianiial wall round 
the Penitentiary- This was done, so I'ar as raising a wall, but it has never, with 
all its repairs and abutments, been a substantial wall. From first to last, it has 
never rested on a suitable foundation. The situation of the grounds render this 
a dilficiilt worl:; but it has certainly proved a very weak oiie. In 1838, an ac- 
count was rendered for " digging a diicli and banking a ir a inst m-yAn wall ovtside.'''' 
The Report of 1840-''4l, presents, that " another improvement is mucli needed 
Jbr the safekeeping of the convicts, as well as the durability of the walls: it is to 
build them higher, and to surmount them with hewn stone caps, to protect tliem 
in sotne measure from the weather. This m;iy he done by the addition of a few 
feet of stone wall, or by excavating the earth within the wall, down to the rocks 

on wliich tliej' arc fouiuled." "The west ha'f of the north wall, and the ivholt 
of the west wall, are now so low, that they can be easily scaled; bat the top of 
the ichol wall is in such a condition, that the water which falls upon it, instead 
of ruiininij olF, penetrates in any direction through it, and Irequcnlly finds its 
way out at the surl'ace of the ground; thus washing out the mortar and weak- 
ening it materially." The Keport lor lS42-'43, shows a charge loliie State lor 
building an abutment to support the wall, $19 50: also for rebuilding a large 
breach in the wall, viz: 274 perch, $445 25; also $430 67, for replucinEr coop- 
er shops, crushed by the falling wall.[!] A bill for extra guards, employed 
wdiile repairs were carried on, follows the above, of $1,&G0 Oo. In 1S44, the 
Inspectors state, that "repairs are necessary to preserve aiyJstreiigi/un the piis-cn 
and walls;" also, the ivest wall being in danger of ialling, an outlay was made 
to preserve the same, ol'$26(J 15. In conclus^ion, December, Ib-iu, " aboiit 50 
feet of the west wall fell to the ground," and an equal measure is now tottering upon 
its Ibundations. A portion of the south wall is yielding, and I am told it must be 
supported by raising abutments within the premises. The east v.ali has already 
been shown to stand insecurely. It is something more than four ftet thick at 
base; three or a little over at top, and is thirty feet high. It is badly bu:It, ol sniall 
stone, a thin lace on either side, tilled in with rubbish and mortar. Tlie top of 
this having never been protected by roofing or capping, has received, i-ntl con- 
tinues to receive, injury from the rains, which falling. How into the central in- 
terstices, and thus steadily aid causes belbre specified in the work of destruc- 

I have been thus explicit in showing the defects of the Peni'entiary, believing 
that no outlay of money can coiivert t is prison into a secure, comviodious, or du- 
rable establishment. It may receive repairs and additions; but these, in tlie very 
nature of things, where, from the first mistakes, ha've been pcrpclnated, and so 
very little faithfully accomplished with a view to permanent duration, w 11 only 
be still succeeded by repairs and additions.' The plan, if indeed any plan has 
ever existed, is defective beyond comparison. I see but one rcm.edy and mi ney 
saving resource. It is to make sale, as speedily as possible, of this Stale pro- 
perty, and with the proceeds, purchase and construct a new prison, eilhir in 
Alton, or elsewhere; and so construct it, that there will be no occasion to sink 
funds in building and rebuilding, year following year. Should you tpprcpriate 
the rents for the ensuing six years to repairs and additions, and be assured of a 
discreet application of the same, you would not, and could not, at the end of that 
time, have an institution in good condition. The lodging prison occupies the 
highest ground within the inclosure, or rather it stands upon the extreme lin)its, 
the western wall of the shell, or inclosing building v,-hich covers the cells, be- 
ing a substitute for a suitable wall west, and irum which (l:e prison prcper 
should be removed. The outer walls of the lodging prison measure exteriorly 
67 feet by 44. The area within, between the walls and the cells, is inciunber- 
ed with boxes containing the State arms. These, I was told, arc becoming use- 
less for want of care. The central ])risons, or the cells, are built ol" stoiie, ele- 
vated four stories; 22 cells on each iloor, 11 cells in a row — that is, 44 on each 
side, back to back; the rear walls of the cells on one side, being built into those 
on the reverse side. The successive stories are reached over llights cf steps 
or stairs, terminating on narrow galleries; which, however are ofsulHcient width 
to answer daily use. The dimensions of the cells vr.ry somewhat, according to 
the thickness of the separating walls, being from three feet three inc-hcs to iliree 
feet six inches wide, by nearly seven long in the clear, and seven high, not arch- 
ed. The doors of each cell are six feet by one foot five-sixths. 

The dimensions of the*e cells do not vary essentially from those in mos prison, 
whicli are constnicted on the JIubnrn plan, cxoeptincfthat prison itself, he celb 
Z- whicli are 7 1-2 feet lontr, 3 feet 8 inches wide, and 7 cet high. Bn it may 
be Ucrvcd that the ventilation in «// the prisons on this p an is - f /- JJ^; ^^"^ 
the disadvantages growing ont of this defeot so serious, affecting the health ot the 
prisoners, ^^cc^that they are fast falling into disrepute ; and I have, within two 
years, he^rd p opositions from various sources, to enlarge the cells, (but no to 
fnuliiply the iceipants as here, and in Indiana and ^--^'\f > ')-;;' ^^^^^^,1 
should be at great cost to the States owning such prisons. But 80 of the bb ce U 
have ever been completed, and 6 of the 80 are too insecure for the safe custody 

"^ThH^^'k' seems to have been executed in a very unworkmanlike manner, 
and with but little reference to securily or duraiion, as I will proceed to show. 
The dimensions of the lodging cells require, that, lor ^^e preservation of health 
and a tolerable degree of comfort, where so many causes exist for destroying the 
who esome qualities of the atmosphere, great care should be taken to secure a 
con>tant and\horough ventilation. The air flues in the rear wa Is of the cells m 
this prison are quite useless, and must have been so from the irs ; the ma.on 
work having been so clumsilv done that the passages are con.pletcly obstructed 
To prove the inutility of the'se, I held a lighted lamp to the apertures, which 
are all very small; and though I passed into at least one-turd of the cells for 
this purpose, I did not find in a single instance, the flame disturbed nor could 
any curr^ent of air be perceived. The investigating committee, (see Repor s of 
vessioa l8.38-'39,) declare that -the cells, from want ol suflicient ventilation, 
^reextrencly uncomfortahU and nnhe^llhy;-\n summer the water trickles down 
the sides of them," (from defects in the inclosing roof and walls,) '-and in w ntcr 
they are coated with ice !" The Report of the present session ^hows that 
thoLh there are 88 cells now in all, but 80 of them are avaiohle, the other 8 
havinc never been floored over^ and, I may add, that a careful ex.m.nation will 
reveaf such defects in the floors of others, &c., that the prison may be declared 
insecure, even now, when year after year, repairs have been demanded, and ad- 
ditions Vo cells required. This year's Report also declares that "the locU of 
the cells, as a general thing, are of cast iron, tender and insecure for the pur- 
pose for which they are used. In one or two instances, these have been sever- 
l\ of them opened with a single key." Of these ocks, 38 cannot have been m 
use before 1^39. See Report of 1840-'4l , charged 38 locks at ^\ 2j each. It 
does not seem necessary to adduce additional illustrations of the msecunlij, insuf- 
ficiency and bad construction of the lodging prison. ,. r«i T, 
I proceed to show the necessity for additional cells for the reception of the con- 
vict^ It is to sav the least, most unfortunate, that, in the location and construc- 
tion of this prison, no prospective views have been taken respecting the wants 
of the State, as regards fit provision for the detention and care of convicts 1 he 
Report of Inspectors, 183S-'39, shows that they " now have 5b cells, 3. hav- 
ing been addell to the 24 previously built, " of like materials and workmanship 
with those alreadv erected; also the wnlls and mof of the prison house were ex- 
tended so as to inclose the same." The Inspectors eo on to remark, that it i. 
vorv probable, that, betbre the next tw(. years end, they xcxll ad be occupied. — 
Th^tthis supposition was verified, is shown in the Report of the ^^'^^^rn^ice 
and that of the Inspectors, the following session, IH^O-Ml The first state* 
that while there are .% cells, the number of convicts is 89; this nun.beris hke- 
Iv to increase in a ratio that requires the immediate enlargement of tlie Feniten- 
tLv. and an increase of cells, and they urge, with sound arguments, the eredion 
of at least - 91 additional cells," &c. It may be well to quote what the lii<pec- 
' tors set forth: -There are now, December, 1840, 5G cells of a size barehj sujficmA 

for the accommodation of the convicts; and these are now 90; and the number 
increasing:, by a ratio that will more than double this number belbre anotiier reg- 
ular session ol' the Legislature. Oi' the o4 convicts now in excess, some, when 
it will possibly do, are placed two in a cell, some are chained to the walls in the 
passages of the prison, and others confined in the cellars!" "The practice of 
doubling occupants in cells, is very unhealthy, and ought not to be permitted; and 
■conliuing in the passages and cellars, facilitates their escape, and endangers the 
lives of the warden and his family." " In our opinion, the number of cells should, 
in tlie two succeeding years, be increased to 'jt least two hundred; and it will 
be cheaper to do it in one job," (and it miglit have been added, more durable and 
more secure,) "than by piece meal." The Committee on the Penitentiary, 
1842-'43, remark, "that, from the Report of the Inspectors to the present Gen- 
eral Assembly, it appears that there are not cells for one hu/fthe convicts confined 
in the prison at the present time; that hvo are put together in each cell, and that 
these were constructed tor the accommodation of one only; the remainder, consist- 
ing of twenty or more, are confined in a mass, in the cellar of the prison, in oth- 
er words, in the cellar of the warden's dwelling, directly beneath the family 
lodging rooms; said cellar being 13 feet by 27; the same which at present is con- 
verted into a hospital for the sick ! 

The Committee continue, fallowing some judicious remarks: " And we can- 
not but come to the conclusion, that this Legislature will not be justified in per- 
mitting such a state of things to continue. An appropriation must be made to 
erect more cells, or the mode of punishing oflfenders must be changed.'''' " The 
objects of the Penitentiary are understood to be two-fold; the reform of the of- 
fender and the safety of society; but under such a state of things as exists in our 
Penitentiary, neither can reasonably be expected. A very large portion of tljc 
convicts sent to our Penitentiary, are in a short time let loose again upon society. 
By the Report of the Inspectors, we find that, during the last two years, ninety- 
Tiine convicts were discharged from their confinement, having served out the 
time for which they were sentenced, or having received pardon through the 
■clemency of the Lxecutive. It must, therefore, be apparent to every one, that 
unless there is a reform wrought in the convict, there can be no protection to so- 
< ciety; for we may be assured that the Penitentiary will be to the convict a school 
of reform, or of vice and iniquity; and if of the latter, the discharged convict 
■enters again into society, a much more dangerous man than when sentenced to 
the Penitentiary; having been schooled in ^ ice and iniquity by the free inter- 
course he lias had with other criminals while in confinement; and such results 
can only be prevented by having separate cells for each convict, and all conversa- 
tion between them, except in relation to their labor, be strictly forbidden, and if 
possible, wholly prevented." A report so honorable to the sentlemen who drew 
it up, so creditable to the State, so just in its views, reachin-r to the security of 
society and the real good of the convict, ought not to be forgotten. 

But the wise opinions of both inspectors and committees, were not regarded. 
An insufficient number of cells has continued to mar discipline, and counteract 
wholesome restraints. But thirty-two cells were added, and these at a cost of 
$8,788 50; and, as remarked on the first pages of this communication, the In- 
spectors in 1844, reported their sufficiency, on the singular ground of a hoped 
for decrease in the number of convicts. We now arrive at the latest Report. 
viz: that for 184.5-'4t). The first recommendation is, as usual, the extension 
of the cells; and the well known fact is repeated, that "of the 88 cells, but SO 
are fit for occupation, the others never having been floored over." The Inspec- 
tors, singularly enough, do not comment on the exceeding evil of placing /ifo 
convicts in a space 3 1-2 feet by 6 1-2 or 7; but remark, that, in any emergencv, 
" not more than two prisoners can be put in one cell, and not more than cne 

with safety." To me, it seems there are many objections, obvious enough, 
beside endangering the sa'e keeping ol' the convicts and the lives ol' the guards. 

Dr. Lieber, wliose sound philo^^ophlcal views entitle his opinions to respectful 
consideration, writes: " ll" you bring two evil disposed pers:)ns, especially two 
individuals whose presence in the prisun points out crime as a prominent fea- 
ture in their life, inclose contact, and if in boll), there was before the contact, 
a certain and ecjual degree of criminality, this criminality will h.ave greatly in- 
creased after the contact; because they, as all other men, good or bad, will pro- 
pel each other in that line which is characteristically their own. 

" The prisoner shows to his fellow ])risoncr, by the fact that they meet in tliat 
place, that cr-ime has brought him there. As criminals they meet, and as crimi- 
nals they commune with one another, and corrupt one another." 

It is added, "the least jjossible nuuibcr of new cells now needed, is 48, which 
would make in all, 13G; being less than the whole number of j)risoners that have 
been conlincd here already." But why not pro^■ide for at least as many convicts 
as may be expected to swell the population of the prison for the two years to 
come, at least? The iact is, suppose these and no more to be built — what then? 
At your very next session, the first ini])ortant clause of the biennial Report will 
show " too tew cells." I found at the prison, in May, 184(j, 128 convicts. In 
July the number was greater ; in December, notwithstanding a diminution of 
the old set, by expiration of sentences, deaths, escapes and pardons, still a larger 
number remaining, viz: 135. Permit me to ask, is it wise, is it good economy, 
to make up such a patch work prison? Small biennial additions, finished only to 
reveal how inadequate they are for the positive necessities of the Institution? 
The cost of breaking down and replacing the end wall of the inclosing building; 
of removing the inclosing wall west; of opening the roof, 8i.c.. &c.; the tempta- 
tions olfered to prisoners to escape, while the imperfect work opens many enti- 
cing avenues to a bold spirit; those and other reasons, continually support a wiser 
and broader plan of future operations. But it is not that money is wasted, or in- 
judiciously appropriated in doing little by little, and multiplying defects upon 
what originally was badly devised. It is not merely the co>t, confusion, disar- 
rangement, and finally, the insufliciency of the work, that should be made the prom- 
inent consideration: it is the moral well-being of the convicts, which Benevo- 
lence, whose hand-maid is long sufiering Charity; Justice, whose best attril)Utc 
is Mercy; Religion, whose heavenly spirit is Love to God and all mankind, 
commeijd solemnly to your care. It is upon your deliberations, upon your ac- 
tion, a great and not-to-be-evaded responsibility rests. It is as you reluse to, 
or provide for, your convicts in the Penitentiary, the means of improvement; as 
yo\i put it in the power of governing otilcers, or withhold facilities, that the cor- 
rect discipline, and consequently reformatory influences of the prison depend. — 
As you neglect this prison, you become accountable, not to an earthly, but to an 
immutable tn!)unal, ibr the bad consequences wiiich accompany bad arrange- 
ments and wantcf discipline. As you study, with maidy fidelity and wise dis- 
cretion, its real good, you become alil<c benefactors to the degraded and unfortu- 
nate, and benefactors to youi fellow-citizens at large. 

I shall comment very brietly on the condition of the prison cells, as I have'^ 
dwelt at lenglli on their defective construction. They are not furnished with per- 
manent bed-frames of iron, clothed with sacking, as in most prisons; but the sub- 
stitutes for these, as also the beds and bedding, are not in a tolerably good con- 
dition for the maintenance of health and cleanliness. There are but two pri- 
sons in the United States which arc so ba.lly supplied, and so comfortless and 
disorderly, as this, viz: Indiana old prison, and that of Kentucky at Frankfort. 
I do njt like comparisons of this sort; but sometimes they are needed. The 

lodgincf cells uf the Arkansas prison, this year destroyed by fire, and ihosc of 
the Missouri prison at Jel'icrson City, were in all respects more coin'ortal^k- ;ind 
cleanly. An improvement has lately been made in llie lodging building al Al- 
ton, which justice to the ^Varden re4uires should be jncutioned. Tiie walls have 
been recently whitewashed, and two stoves placed in the damp areas to secure a 
i!iore healthful temperature. I believe it is not tlie duty oi" the Lessee to I ur- 
nish the cells in the first instance. 

The prison building which incloses the cells, requires repairs; the gutters and 
spouts having all fallen from the eaves, and during rains or the melting of snow, 
tlie waters wash the foundations of tlie structure. 

The eating room connected with the prison, is in many respects the best build- 
ing on the premises, though it has never been completed. In 1838-'39, the In- 
spectors reported that there was " no suitable room for the convicts in which to 
eat their meals; the Warden, thereibre, was directed to put up sucii a building 
as was needed for that use." "A building, one story in height, 18 feet by 40, 
was erected and finished for this purpose." For this and other repairs not spe- 
cified in the repoi't, the sum of Jp75 appears on the bills. 
In December, 1844, the Inspectors, (another Board,) say that "the eating house 
and kitchen were originally built in the most temporary manner, and also had be- 
come entirely too small for the accommodation of the convicts ; they v»'ere also 
built of the most combustible materials, and placed within a lew feet of the main 
buildings; thus constantly endangering the existence of the whole." "We have 
thought that the safety of the buildings, and the comfort of the convicts demind- 
demanded the improvements we have made." " The new building is oi' stone, 
with a good cellar under the kitchen, and like the last, is as permanent as the 
prison itself. The aggregate cost, as per bills, is $1,485 88." The above de- 
scribed building is 100 feet by 25. Of its defects, the Inspectors of \hef,rescni 
season speak as follows: " We would also recommend the enlargement of the 
eating room, which, of necessity, will have to be done soon, and the flooring or 
flagging of the whole with stone. As it is now, it is muddy and disagreeable in 
wet weather, and cannot be washed or cleansed in dry weather." The reason 
is apparent: there has never been any floor to the room, other than the ground on 
which the prison is built. But there is another deficiency here, not mentioned 
by the Inspectors; and but for the fact that their attention has been called to it, 
one miglit suppose that they were unccnscioi.s that it existed I mean the want 
of common wooden benches upon which to seat the convicts while they eat. — 
The Penitentiary at Alton is the only prison in the United States, in which the con- 
victs partake their meals standing, whether separately or in ct mmon. These con- 
victs, as is their duty, labor diligently and continually during the hours appointed, 
from daylight to the close of day. No intervals of suspended actioii arrive, ex- 
cept in cases of illness, and at the time of meals. Is it reasonable or humane, 
nay is it merciful, or is it even good policy, to require the tired laborer, after 
leaving the shops, and ascending in heat or cold, through storm or sunshine, 
amidst rain or snow, in summer and winter, that toilsome hill, to stand while he 
hastily partakes Ids food, and then returns to his labor till darkness gives no- 
tice that " lock up hours have come." The Inspectors say they have no author- 
i ty to furnish seats; 'he Lessees aflirm that they are under no obligation to do 
so. Will the Legislature decide this knotty question, and cause seats to be iur- 
nished at once? The cost must be a mere trille; but much or little, I conclude 
all will concede, that, for the sake of decency and humanity, it should be done, 
and that speedily. 

In regard to discharged convicts, I find no law in force, providing a suit of 
clothes, and a sum of money to defray the first certain expenses following liber- 
ation, and before time has alibrded opportunity for engaging in any honest labor. 


It is true, that, at the solicitation of Wardens and Inspectors, who must know 
the necessilius ol" these men, there has been from lime to time a small grant, 
when expense has been iir.>t incurred, on the responsibility of the ollicers. For 
example, in l8i^8-'39, the sum of ,$55 25 was allowed lor 15 convicts who had 
served out tlieir time, giving an average of $3 GH for clothing, traveling expen- 
ses and sustenance. In 1840-"41, the account reads as I'ollows: "Paid money 
and clothes for 17 discharged convicts, who, at the time of their discharge, were 
end e'y destitute, and whose clothes had been lost or mislaid previous to the lease, 
$107 00." They add: "we have procured the cheapest clothing that could be 
purcluised;" and lurther, " we have supposed that we could not be justified in 
turning them into the streets, naked or pennyless; thus exposing them to the 
strongest temptation to commit again the crime for which most of them were 
sent here." In l842-'43, !f'54 25 was paid to discharged convicts who were 
destitute; and for clothes lost previous to lease, .$38 75, making ."^593 in two 
years. The whole number of convicts discharged in the same period, was 99. 
See Reports. How insufficient for their first pressing necessities, must have 
been the aid received. In 1844, the Inspectors again urge the necessity of 
granting a sufficient sum to discharged convicts, to relieve present wants; and add, 
that, " they are brought to the Penitentiary but poorly clad, generally without 
money or funds; and by the time their sentence has expired, their clothes, such 
as they had, though preserved with as much care as possible, are ready to fall 
to pieces oi" their own weight, and they are turned out into the street, almost 
naked, without money, and certainly not having received any moral or religious 
instruction to restrain them, and are in a fit condition to fall back into their old 
habits. Indeed it would be surprising if they did not do so." See Reports, 
1844. The Inspectors of the jiresent year remark, that, " for humanity's 
sake, a small amount in money should be provided by law, to be paid to discharg- 
ed prisoners, as well as a suit of common clothes. It seems, (say they,) hard 
.to confine a man three years lor theft, and then turn him upon the world without 
covering, or means even for a meal's victuals; thereby forcing him, by the opera- 
tions of law, to steal again." For cash paid out to 105 prisoners, between June 
22, 1842, and March 5, 1845, $201 62. 

The legal allowance to discharged convicts, in most of the Penitentiaries of 
the United States, is a suit of gooc^ clothes, and a sum of money varying from $3 
to $5; in some cases $10. I have belbre me the reports of many States, and 
find this rule established by law; and it seems so clearly obligatory upon Govern- 
ment to render these supplies, that all argument to enforce this truth is superilu- 
ous. In New York, and elsewhere, it is thought by many, connected olKcially 
and otherwise with the prisons, that even this is inadequate to meet just require- 

I have heard that the want of a prison for women convicts, who are sentenced 
to a Penitentiary life, has been repeatedly expressed. At present, there are no 
women convicts in the prison at Alton j not probably because there are none 
whose olfences subject them to being sent there, but because there is not the 
smallest provision for their reception. Moreover, no deceut mid approved ar- 
ranf^ements could, under any circurnstances^ be made there, for that class of trans- 
gressors. The objections are so obvious, that all exposition is needless. 

I would sucrgest that some one of the most populous counties in the State, 
should cause to be established a County house of Correction — Cook county, for 
example — where idlers, vagrants and pettv ofienders, should be sentenced for a 
term of months; when, for men, the nature of the offence does not subject them 
to the State prison. But let all women State criminals be sent thither, and such 
mutual arrangements agreed on between the County and State, lor the expenses, 
employment, and control of the same, as shall be satisfactory and just. 


The Hospital, so called, is reached by descending a flight of stairs or steps, 
from without, into a cellar, situated immediately beneath the lamily apartments 
of the resident Lessee. The dimensions of this dismal place, are thirteen leet 
fy tuentyte^ and feet high. On the 9th of May last, I ^mn^ -. t us 
wretched den, uncleansed, unventilated, utterly comlortless, several sick con- 
victs, one very low of contagious erysipelas. Since then, three have died 
here of this disease; .nd though, as the Lessee writes to me 'it has been he 
most unhealthy season ever known in the prison, we have got along mucli better 
than we have any righi to expect, with the poor conveniences we have for taking care oj 
ihe sick:' In rainy weather the water finds way irom without, flooding the floor 
of this dreary room, increasing the unhealthiness of" a place always damp, arid 
one would suppose, while examining it, inevitably to be fatal to all f .""fortunate 
occupants. These occupants are prisoners, convicted of crimes which ha^^ or 
a time banished them from society; but it was made no part of their sentence, 
this cruel condemnation to such a dungeon during the days and weeks ot pain- 
ful sickness. To charge the Lessee with intentional neglect of the sick, 
would be unjust; for if he were not a humane man, as 1 believe him to be, 
his pecuniary interest is involved in employing every means he can command lor 
restoring and preserving the health of the convicts, and rendering their situa- 
tion as lUtle irksome outwardly as possible. Men rarely become spin ua lly bet- 
ter by being made subject; through Aum«n discipline, to extreme bodily discom- 
forts; these convicts are not made morally better by such treatment as they are 
subjected to here in ttie days of bodily weakness and pain. 

mt I do not express any exaggerated opinions of this Hospital department, is 
easily shown by a few extracts from reports, rendered at various periods to the 

Legislature. _ , io.. . i. ii * a. -a ^,.4 

The Inspectors, in their biennial Report, December, 1844 state that, '/?«/, 
they would strongly recommend a Hospital Department lor the sick. 1 houf2;n, 
say thev, "the mortalit^ has not at any lime been very great, yet it is the opin- 
ion of the phvsicians who have been in attendance, that lives are somdime^ tost 
that might have been saved, if they had been provided with the ordmary comjcrts thai 
humanity calls for. The sick are now obliged to be confined in their eel s, 
which are scarcely three feet six-twelfths, by six and a half or seven, and badJy 
ventilated, or in Abasement story, (the cellar so called at the prison,) where the 
nir is bad at best, and when there are several on the sick list, at times almost 
insupportable." "The convicts, when sick, especially, seem entitled at least 
to common comforts and conveniencies, not only from motives of humanity, but 
from the fact that they not only defray their own expenses, but pay a considera- 
ble sum into the Treasury;" and it might have been added, yield a liberal income 

to the Lessees. , . , . , . .i r n 

The newly appointed Inspectors for 1845, refer to this subject in the follow- 
in- terras: - We proceeded to visit the prison"—" and found the sick better than 
could be supposed by any one acquainted with the location of \}ie hospttal, under 
ground as it is, without air or light, and wet every time v rams! A memt)er 
of the Penitentiary Committee, makes the following Report in February, b4D. 
" The necessity for the erection of a Warden's house, is of no small importance 
to the State, when, by having the hospital of the Penitentiary restored to its 
original purpose, instead of being used as a dwelling house for the UardeD, 
the'rebv transferring the sick from an under gr' undroom, which is at present Irom 
necessity used for that purpose, and which, from the report of the attending phy- 
sician, " is well calculated to terminate the life of any one who may be compeUtd 
to remain there for any considerable length of time, rather than to rest.^re tlicm to 
health." To me it does not appear that the building, in which tiie Lessee re- 
sides, is suitably situated for a Hospital;^ neither is it properly constructed so 
as to answer the purposes of an infirmary in a prison. 


But it seems supcrlluous lo aJd arguments to statements so explicit and urgent 
as the preceding', and I leave this subject with those who are fully authorized to 
redres.-i, and thut speedily, sinli au injurious and negligent course of treatment 
on the part of the State towards the helpless convicts. Submission is their du- 
ttj; obedience their neccssiiij; while merciful and humane treatment is their un- 
tfUrstionable right. 

I\Ioral and religious instruction for the convicts at Alton, has, with slight ex- 
ceptions, been singiilarly overlooked by successive Legislatures; and of course 
usually disreg-arded by the Inspectors, and still less appreciated by Wardens and 
Lessees. An honorable exception, during the adrr!ini>tration of prison aflairs 1)y 
Mr. J. K. AVoods, is on record: and it was at this time that the attention ol" the 
Legislature was so far awakened, that we find in "the Laws of Illinois, 183.S-'39 
— Act on page 278; sec. 10, the following passage : the Inspectors are autho- 
rized lo furnish, at the expense of the State, a copy of the Eible to each convict 
who is able and willing to read the same." In the Revis-ed Statutes, 18-15, chap. 
Lxxxi — pe. 406 — sec. 12, the same is recorded. Kxcept in ihe lines above 
quoted, 1 can discover no record, nor can I ascertain through verbal inquiry, 
that this subject has ever received the slightest cjnsidtration in the asseniLHes 
of the Legislature, Very few Bibles have ever, at any period, been supjiliedat 
the cost of the State or otherwise. The committee, directed by the Lcgi.--lature, 
January, 1S39, to visit the Penitentiary, and report its condition, state that ihey 
found tiie convicts very inddferently supplied with Bibles and other books ne- 
cessary for their moral instruction: there have been no means employed to in- 
sure regular preaching on ihe Sabbath, &c. (See Reports, 1838-'.'i9 — Pnge 18. 
The Inspectors report, December, 1840, an expenditure of " .';;4l 75 cts. for 75 
Bibles." Some few of these, it is believed, were distributed; a part were stor- 
ed away, and forgotten until recently. 

All reasoning minds, whether religiously disposed or not, will admit the fact, 
thit convicts are not sentenced to the Penitentiarj- through a spirit of revenge, on 
the part of society, nor yet for punishment merel)'. If this were the case, one 
would say that imprisonment should reach through the term of their natural 
lives; since, if Reformation is not the paramount object, public security is great- 
ly more endangered by the discharge of these bad men from prison, than it would 
have been before they were subjects of the indurating influences of association 
for years, with the assembled criminals of the land, indulged in vicious conver- 
sations, and cut oif from all the aids wliich are employed to strengthen the weak 
roinled, and restore the fallen. 

It is due to Mr. ^Voods to refer explicitly to exertions on his part for the ben- 
efit of the prisoners at Alton. I quote at length from his report: — See "Reports 
of session 1838-'39." "Believing it to have been the paramount object of those 
benefactors of our race who Ibunded the penitentiary system, to punnish the 
criminal by a mere deprivation of liberty alone, and to reform him by the in- 
fluence of means that could be used with advantage in such a situation only, I 
have deemed it a duty to afford the convicts every facility which lay in my pow- 
er, to receive moral and religious instruction, and accordingly solicited the ser- 
vices of a number of the clergy in this neighborl.ood, and which I am happy to 
say have been cheerfully rendered, and so far as I have been able to judge, bene- 
ficial to the prisoners generally. A sabbath school was also commenced 
in the autumn of 1837, and with some few intermissions, has been regularly 
su^tained; and the result has been, that, of seven w-ho wereignorant of the alpha- 
bet, four were tolerable readers when I discharged them, and the remaining three 
real in (he spelling-book. "The Methodist Book concern," in Alton, have made 
a donation of twelve Bibles, and the clergy of that denoinination have manifested 
a very laudable interest in behalf of the prisoners. The other books and pa- 


pers used by the convicts, with the exception of the Temperance Herald, ten 
copies of which are circulated monthly amongst them, have been taken from my 
own library. If a variety of moral and religious books were kept lor the use 
of the convicts, it would evidently add to their comfort, and contribute greatly 
towards preparing them lor usefulness in society when discharged. 

Further, Mr. Woods remarks: — "Of the fifteen discharged since I have had 
chariic of the prison, one is in business with his father in Kentucky, four arc at 
work in the vicinity of this city; and these live maintain a correct moral deport- 
ment. The others I have not heard from. In Dr. Hart's report, it is sliown 
that Mr. Woods' discipline has been thorough and effective; and this is satisiac- 
torily shown by the quiet, industrious, and obedient demeanor of the convicts." 

The Inspectors, iu their report for 1844-'45, suggest that "some provision 
should be made for tlie moral and religious instruction of the convicts. The 
very object and intent of peniteniiarjj punishment, as the term implies, is refor- 
mation; and yet nothing is done to bring about so desirable a result. This has 
been attended to, we believe, in almost, if not every penitentiary in the Union, 
and its neglect is matter of reproach against that of Illinois. The convicts 
work during the week, and are shut up on Saturday night, where they remain 
till Monday mon ing, without a single word of encouragement irom any one 
who seems to take an interest in their welfare, to induce them to change the 
course of life which has brought tiiem into their present condition. A building 
might be erected at a moderate expense, which would answer the purpose of a 
shop, with a second story which might be fitted for a chapel, and a chaplain ap- 
pointed with a sufficient compensation, whose duty it should be to have reli- 
gious services, at least once on every Sabbath, and to administer to the sick and 
dying the consolations appropriate to their condition.-' I regret that the sen- 
timents embodied in the paragraph I must next quote, are not in harmony with the 
just and manly as well as excellent suggestions above quoted. 

The Inspectors, in their concise report to the Legislature the present session, 
express themselves as follows. I forbear comment upon the propriety or obvi- 
ous interpretation of the same, only observing that, however the Inspectors are 
adverse to convict instruction, the citizens at large are not indifferent on this 

"We have received some communications relative to the establishment of a 
chapel, with requests that we make tjie mention of them a part of this report. If 
it should be thought proper by the Legislature to erect a chapel, and establish 
the institution of preaching on the Sabbath, or any other day in the week, we 
would recommend that thetime be left entirely to the Warden, as he would be 
the only person competent to judge in case of insurrection or any other distur- 
bances, whether it would be sale to release the prisoners from their cells. But 
our opinion is, that if those people's efforts had the desired effect in the covwiu- 
niiy at large, there would not be any, at least not so many, to preach to in the 
penitentiary. And no man except an officer of the prison, or some other person 
well known, should be permitted to have private conversations with the con- 
victs. It is much easier to make bad worse than good better." 

Penitentiary Inspectors, State of Illinois. 
See House Document^ referred, DecemLer 14th, 184G, and 300 cojnes ordered to 
be printed. 

. The above paragraphs, gentlemen, embrace the whole evidence I have been 
able, after diligent investigation, to search out respecting the slightest official in- 
terest or provision for the instruction of the State prisoners of Illinois. Remotely 


fro:n time to time, clergymen have volunteered a service, and though not always 
refused, they liave received but little encouragement to repeat tlieir benevolent 
labors. Latterly, bibles and tracts have been distributed: especially has this 
been done through the agency of Rev. Mr. Williams, of Alton. A visitor of 
prisons purchased the last summer, for the use of the convicts, a quantity and 
variety of books as a foundation for a permanent library, which it is hoped and 
believed that the Legislature in the exercise of their rights, in fulfilling the ob- 
vious and just obligations, of all the citizens, will, from session to session, make 
sufficient appropriations to sustain and enlarge. The books supplied the last 
summer, are called for with interest and used with manifest advantage, according 
to the testimony of Mr. Pierson, the Clerk, and other jjcrsons who interest 
themselves in the distribution of the books. I ibund these on my last visit used 
witli as much care, and as well kept by the prisoners, as their circumstances, 
and situation seemed to permit. I have heard casually and recently, that a gift 
of books from a distant prison has been made through Mr. Williams, and also 
that a set of "the Children's Sunday School Library has been sent by an agent of 
the Sunday School Society." — Books are important aids, when suitably chosen, 
in awakening the higher faculties, and kindling desires for that which is wiser 
and better in life than has heretofore been attained and practised; but these helps 
are insulficient. The counsels of a benevolent and religious man, who, to heart- 
felt interest in the work, joins that aid and skill in conveying instruction, at 
right times, and in the right way; one who possesses both discrimination and 
firmness, gentleness and sympathy; who day by day should pass among the 
prisoners, urging by "line upon line, and precept upon precept," the duty and 
happiness of a good life; such a man should be sovight after and established at 
the prison, supported in his vocation by the State, and allowed all facilities for 
conveying needed instruction both on Sunday and every day in the week. To 
him should the prisoner look as his spiritual guide and hel])er: — to him the sick 
look for the counsels and consolations their deplorable condition claims; through 
this teacher should the convict learn to experience that the State, that society, 
do not abandon him to misery and perdition; but that they aim, through all the 
discipline to which he is made subject, to restore hira to liberty, a wiser, happi- 
er, and better man. 

I urge the appointment of a moral and religious instructor, not because most 
other States offer the example, led earlier to a sense of duty to the recreant, but 
because it is right. I cannot better conclude this subject, upon which I earnest- 
ly hope you will take early action, and so direct your deliberations that substan- 
stial benefits shall reach the convicts, than by referring to a communication laid 
before your honorable body early in the session, and which, in a manly and 
christian spirit, advocates the claims of the prisoner. "The Synod of Illinois, 
composed of one branch of the Presbyterian church, convened in Springfield, 
on the Sth of October, 1846, feeling their responsibility as ministers of religion 
and advocates ofgood morals in the community, would present to your honora- 
ble body, the condition of the convicts in the Penitentiary of our State. 

"It has seemed to us an unfortunate oversight, that an institution denominated 
a"Pen/7cn/w.rv," should be entirely destitute of the means of repentance and re- 
formation. We, therefore, request you to take the subject under consideration, 
and by legislative enactments provide accommodations, by which the convicts 
may be assembled for christian instruction, especially on the Sabbath, and such 
oi/ur arrangements as may be necessary to afTord opportunity and facility to va- 
rious denominations of christians who may be willing to give that instruction. 
And for your prosperity and that of our common country, we feel bound ever to 

In conclusion, permit me briefly to recapitulate the most prominent defects, 
wants and usages of the Penitentiary: 


1st. The inclosed area, one acre ami five sixths, covering the declivity of a 
hill is too confined: the walls of the Michigan penitentiary, inclose an area of 
66b* feet by 524, and the Kentucky prison, at present embraces more than three 

acres and a half, 

2d. The wails are defective, and require rebuilding rather than repairing. 
3d. The cooper-shops are defective over head and under foot, and rest against 
the inclosing wall. 
4th. The ojfice is small and inconvenient. 

5th. The stable, the tailor, waggon, and smith shops, are temporary frame 
buildings, exposed to conflagration, and requiring repairs. 
6th. The warden or lessee has no suitable house. 

7th. Tlie hemp-factory needs to be restored, having recently been partially 
destroyed by fire.* 

8th. The Eafing room, which has never heen floored, is too small, it is said, 
and has never been furnished with any description of seats for the convicts 
while taking their meals. 

9th. The Lodging prison, is out of repair, and contains less than 55, fewer 
liaished cells than there were convicts in December. 

10th. A new Guurd room will be required, if the Warden's house, as is pro- 
posed, is built where the guard room now stands, and if the present residence 
is converted into a Hospital. 

11th. The Hospital is a damp, unventilated cellar ! 

12th. There is no Chapel, neither any furnished room which might temporari- 
ly supply the place oi one. 

13th. There is no Chaplain, or moral and religious instructor. 
14th. The law makes no provision for the destitute discharged convicts. 
15th. I cannot learn that there have been in use at anytime any authorized by- 
laws, emanating from the Legislature, as in all well organized prisons, setting 
forth, in explicit terms, the duties and obligations of all officers, and other per- 
sons employed in the prisons, towards the convicts; and also declaring to the 
convict his duties and obligations, to those 'vho have authority to control his 
whole outward life while lie is subject to a prison. f 

16th. I could not learn that any records of the prison were required to be made 
and preserved for the use of the State, setting forth its history, discipline, the num- 
ber of convicts, and all important facts connected with the prison life; the punish- 
ments to which they are amenable; tlie number of individuals corrected; the 
kind and amount ot punishment, together with a statement of the offence, and a 
clear specification of the rules which had been broken. A small waste-book is 
kept, wherein are entered the names, ages, terms of sentence, &c. 

17th. I could find no books of record belonging to the prison, or to the State, 
showing the number of prisoners disabled by sickness; the number which had 

•It is to be rpjretted that the manufacture of hemp has ever been introduced, than which 
for the eyes atid lungs a more injurious employment could not have been adopted; and at the 
State Penitentiary I am clearly satisfied that it is as unnecessary as it is injurious. 

t I have a copy of twelve printed rules, on a sheet of paper written by Mr. Buckmaster, 
referring to minor duties in general, for his own convenience in directing Some mechanical 
daily movements. They are well devised, and some of them no doubt useful: yet he and 
his officers admit that the 2d and the lOthiules relating to personal conversations between 
the convicts in the cells, in the shops, and elsewhere, are constantly trangressed, and with 
impunity It would be strange enough, with all the various hourly opportunities they pos- 
sess both day and night, if they did not hold the most unreserved comnjunic.ition. It can be 
and it is most largely indulged in, in the hospital, the tailor Eh»p, and that of the shoe- 
makers; in the kitchen, and in the cells; and if they are not always boisterous, profane 
and vicious in these hours of intercourse, why should they not be with two in many of 
the cells; cells adjacent, &c.? and who is accountable for this? the lessee? I think not, un- 
der present circumstances. 


been prescribed for; Die number which had died, nor the lustory orname of the 
disease; yet tliis is done in nearly every prison in the Union. I know in fact of 
but two exceptions, and these by no means lionorable examples. 

ISlh. No reports are required oi' ihc p/nj^ician to the Leccislature, nor of the 
lessee, under the system of leasing, which has in Illinois, superseded the more 
correct and just system of governing through State officers, as wardens, See. 
There seems no longer to be accountability nor responsibility; the State, through 
the Legislature, having sold all the convicts which" are, and are to be, for a tenn 
of years, appears in effect to have abandoned them, regardless only of one thing; 
the productive rents arising from their labors; whether they have just and hu- 
mane treatment, live or die, are reformed or lost to all in this world that is cor- 
rect, and to all in the eteranal world that is hopeful, seems to have been over- 
looked— /orijo/Zm.' The lessee may do his duty in its broadest extent; the sub- 
ordinate oliicers imij all be patterns of a correct and exemplary liJe; — the phy- 
sician 7)i<iij fulfil all the responsible obligations whicli are associated with the hu- 
mane care of the sick; the inspectors may be men of honor, trust, and high moral 
and religious worth in the community — svpponng all this, and that they all 
alike reverence the law of right, — and aim higher even than the mere letter of a 
series of rules prescribed for daily practice would instruct, — is it still of no 
consequence to the State to know of, and to preserve the record of these cor- 
rect proceedings from year to year? 

UUh. The di'd oi' the prisoners, I have reason to believe, is sufficient and 
wholesome; it is of course very plain, as it should be; but all the meats and 
bread-stulfs which I have seen, have been good. Of the method and frequency 
of supplying vegetables, I am not fully informed. Three meals, I was told, are 
allowed daily, except on Sunday, when but two are given. Tlie warden, Mr. 
Buckmaster, can be trusted, I have not the least doubt, in managing this depart- 
ment; but I do not conceive that it is at all the less necessary that the inspectors 
should report upon tliis subject to the Legislature, recording clearly and briefly 
a diet table. 

20th. The clothing of the convicts seemed in about ilie same condition as to 
cleanliness and comfort, as that worn in the prisons of Missouri, Arkansas and 
Indiana. The prisoners in the prisons of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Mich- 
igan, and Ohio, employed at like occupations, make a much more respectable 
appearance at all times, whether on working days or rest-days, than these at 
Alton. I do not know that the convicts at Alton are not sufficiently warm in the 
garments supplied. I did not inquire. 

L'lst. For ia/Ami,'-, no arragements have ever at any period been made at this 
prison; nor have there been supplied any sufficient means for preserving even a 
tolerable personal cleanliness. The convicts may wash face and hands in little 
tubs or buckets in the shops, if they wish. 

22d. The area is out of order, cumbered with materials for cooperage, &c. and 
located on a hill oide; it is neither graded nor McAdmized. 

The Inspectors report, there are no books, records, or papers of any value what- 
ever belonging to the Statel P^or this deficiency, I presume the lessees are not 

I have, gentlemen, in this communication, endeavored to represent, clearly and 
irrrMti-illy, the wants and defects ol' the State Penitentiary; in tlie hope that 
d ing under a full knowledge of circumstances, you would not authorize any 
act's at this time, which would fetter the future: and if now you cannot commence 
a ■:' prison, on an approved plan, and under a correct system, you will not per- 
1 i'l tvis-Militures upon that now occupied, as will assure and perpetuate 

Respectfully submitted. 
. . rii^gfiehl, Februanj, 1847. D. L. DIX. 


















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