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EURASIA (chapter3)

2006-09-08 21:01

    CHAPTER III.

    A VISIT TO A STATE PRISON.

    The Minister of Justice placed an automobile at my service, and when I arrived at the boundary of the reservation, I was stopped by a military officer. I handed him my letter from the Minister of Justice, and, glancing over it, he replied, "You are welcome," and, taking a seat by my side, we drove to the prison grounds, where I was introduced to the Superintendent, and invited by him to be his guest during my stay. I found the prisoners garrisoned in company quarters. One hundred and thirty-five privates, nine corporals, three sergeants and one company clerk constituted a company, with a captain in command of them holding the same rank and pay as a captain in the army, and who was chosen from the non-commissioned officers in the army for distinguished services. The prisoners were classified in twelve companies. Four companies formed the first grade, consisting of Companies A, B, C and D; four companies formed the second grade, consisting of Companies E, F, G and H, and four companies formed the third grade, consisting of Companies I , K, L, and M. The first grade received fifteen cents per day and the third grade five cents per day, and no pay was forfeited for violation of prison rules and regulations, but prisoners received no pay during the time they were on bread and water. Corporals received fifty per cent. more pay than privates, and sergeants and company clerks one hundred per cent. more. Prisoners were required to work eight hours each day, Sundays excepted-commencing at eight a. m., with one hour for dinner, and ending at five p. m., and to attend night school from six p. m. until eight p. m. five nights in the week, and once a week musicians and singers visited the prison and gave entertainments.

    The company quarters were only one-story high, but were large and well ventilated, being eighty feet square with wide verandas and furnished with steam and hot water pipes for cold weather, and lighted throughout by incandescent lamps.

    The beds were all singly arranged in rows and well furnished with mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillows, and the room had nine large wash basins at one end of the room, where all the company could wash their hands and faces and comb their hair.

    The captains were required to sleep in the same rooms with the prisoners, and to eat with them in the dining-room, and were held responsible for their care and good conduct. He could sentence them for misconduct to three days on bread and water, but for serious offences they were tried by a Court of three Judges, appointed by the Minister of Justice.

    The regimental dining-room where all the companies dined was divided into three sections, with partitions eight feet high between them, each section having a door connecting with the kitchen, and the food furnished of good quality, but differing in degree according to grade.

    The hospital was on one side of the square, and was fitted with every modern appliance and at the distance of half a mile was a pest house, to which all prisoners suffering from leprosy, cancer, syphilis and other malignant diseases, were consigned. What most attracted my attention was the bath house, a one-story building, one hundred feet long, adjoining the laundry. It had a swimming tank in the middle of it sixty feet long, forty feet wide and twelve feet deep. At the two ends were porcelain bathtubs for the old and feeble, with hot and cold water faucets, and on one side were shower-bath nozzles overhead, with hot and cold water connections; on the side next the laundry were rows of shelves reaching to the ceiling and numbered from one to eighteen hundred, holding a change of clothing for the entire regiment of prisoners, with a passageway and counter in front, and every prisoner was compelled to bathe on every Sunday, passing over the counter the clothes worked in; when they had undressed and when they had bathed, they received clothes, washed and ironed, to put on. Any prisoner who did not bathe was placed in solitary confinement for three days on bread and water, then taken to the bathhouse and well scrubbed.

    Two prisoners were assigned to work as chiropodists to keep the feet of the prisoners in good condition, and the laundrymen, besides washing and ironing all the clothes, sheets and pillowcases, had to wash and disinfect all the blankets once a month. There were no walls surrounding the prison building, but the reservation being the headquarters of an army corps with barracks on all sides, escapes by prisoners were very rare.

    On marching out of the dining-room after breakfast the roll was called, and also after supper, by the captains of companies, and after nine p. m. the doors were locked and no smoking or talking was permitted.

    A parole commissioner appointed by the Minister of Justice resided at the prison, who was also Superintendent of the Night School, with authority to parole any prisoner according to law that in his judgment was a fit person to be paroled. A paroled prisoner, if he did not have friends to take care of him, was given employment by the Government, and no money deposit was required. The Government paid over to him what money he had earned, and gave him a dress suit and a working suit of clothes and two changes of underclothing-by those acts of justice giving him encouragement to become a useful member of society. He was required to report by a letter once a month to the Governor of the District from which he came, and the Governor was authorized by law to pardon him when he thought proper. Those rules and regulations applied equally to both sexes.

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