A PRISONER is always thankful for the Sabbath. He has been working hard all week, and Sunday affords the opportunity of resting. On the Sabbath morning, the bell for rising rings at eight o'clock. At its ringing each person must rise and dress; he is not permitted to do so before it rings. If he gets tired of remaining in his bunk so late as eight o'clock, and should wish to get up and dress, it would, do him no good; it would be a violation of rules and result in punishment. After the prisoner is up and dressed, he washes and marches out in ranks to breakfast. It is hash, hash, hash, for Sunday breakfast, the same as any other day, except once a month it is codfish hash instead of beef hash. After breakfast, instead of going from the dining-room to work, the prisoners are marched back into their cells where they remain until time for chapel exercises.
There is a dining room for the prisoners and another for the officers. The room where the
SUNDAY IN THE PRISON.
prisoners dine is a large hall capable of seating fully twelve hundred men. Each table is long enough to accommodate twenty men, and resembles an ordinary school-desk. There are no table-cloths or napkins; nothing but a plain, clean board. The table furniture consists of a tin quart cup, a small pan of the same precious metal, which holds the hash, an iron knife, fork and spoon. No beautiful silverware adorns this table; on the contrary, all the dining service is very plain and cheap. The convicts are marched into the dining-room in divisions, and seated at the table. Here they remain in perfect silence, with their heads bowed.
No talking or gazing about the dining-room is permitted. After all the divisions are in and seated, the deputy warden taps a small bell, and the convicts begin the work of "concealing the hash."Before the men enter the dining-room the coffee, bread and hash are placed on the table for each man. The prisoners are given all the food they can eat. It is not the quantity, but the quality, that is objectionable. If more bread is wanted, instead of calling out "Please pass the bread," the convict holds up his hand, and the waiter comes along andTWIN HELLS.
puts a piece of bread in it. He gets but a pint of coffee, and if he wishes a second supply he holds up his cup and it is refilled -- but with water instead of coffee. If he wishes more hash he holds aloft his meat dish, and an officer hands him a large pan of hash, out of which he fills his dish. Not a word is spoken during the meal. Ample time is given the convicts to get all the food they desire; then the deputy warden, who occupies a raised seat at the end of the dining-room, taps a small bell, and the men march out in divisions, back to their cells on Sunday mornings, and to their work on week days.
Breakfast over, and the men in their cells, the choir, which leads the singing and furnishes the instrumental music for the occasion, is taken out, and, under the watchful care of an officer, is conducted to the chapel where they practice until time for the regular services. The choir was composed of convicts who could sing, regardless of the crimes for which they were sent to prison. I recollect at one time we had two horse-thieves, two rapists -- one with a sentence of forty years -- three murderers, two hog-thieves, and several others of equally villainous records, and, last of all, the author!SUNDAY IN THE PRISON.
But this choir will compare favorably with some of the high-toned church choirs outside! To return, think of such a choir singing:
| "Oh, how happy are they, |
Who their Saviour obey,
And have laid up their treasures above!"
At eleven o'clock, the prison bell rings, and the men are marched in ranks to the chapel. When the first division or company reaches the room where the services are to be held, the string band commences to play, and as the divisions march in one after another they are greeted with music. The instruments used are a piano, organ, violin, cornet and bass viol. Very fine music is rendered by the prison band. All being seated, the chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Crawford, a genuine Christian and God-fearing man, rises, and in his happy style reads some beautiful hymn which is familiar to the congregation. The choir leads and the entire congregation sings. Such singing! The convicts have only one opportunity a week to try their voices in a musical way, and when that opportunity comes around it is improved. Nearly one thousand voices unite in singing those beautiful gospel hymns! A prayer is offered; more singing; then the chaplain, or some visitingTWIN HELLS.
minister who may be present, preaches a short discourse. There is a large field for usefulness, and for doing good, in the penitentiary. The harvest is truly great. Chaplain Crawford comprehends the situation, and is putting forth strenuous efforts to save these men who have drifted thus far down the currents of sin. His labors are abundantly blessed of God. Many men go out of that institution a great deal better than when they first entered. Were it not for the cruel treatment the prisoners suffer in the coal mines of that institution many more of them would be reformed. This treatment tends to harden the criminal. The chaplain has many evils to counteract, yet he contends nobly for the right, and some of these men are being redeemed from a sinful life. After the sermon, the choir and the string band furnish more soul-stirring music, which enlivens the spirits of the prisoners, and then the chapel exercises are over. The prisoners are now returned to their cells. Occasionally the convicts are permitted to remain after the chapel exercises proper are over and have a social meeting. The chaplain remains with them. These men sing, pray and give in their religious experience. It is novelSUNDAY IN THE PRISON.
to hear these Christian criminals telling how they love Jesus.
Immediately after the religious services are over the prison school begins. Nearly one hundred of the convicts attend this school The common branches, reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, etc., are taught. This school is graded, and under the management of the chaplain, who is an excellent instructor, is a great blessing to the prisoners. Numbers have fitted themselves here so that when they went out they were able to pass examination and obtain certificates as teachers.
On entering the institution many of the prisoners who are unable to read and write soon acquire these useful arts if they have any ambition for self-improvement. If there was room, and this school could be conducted in the evening, as well as on Sunday afternoons, much more good could be accomplished. I would suggest that it would be a good act on the part of the State to employ an officer who should devote all his time to teaching and imparting instruction in the common branches, and let a room be fitted up for evening school, so that all prisoners who might desire to improve themselves could attend this place ofTWIN HELLS.
instruction after the work of the day was over. Nothing could be done that would be more advantageous to the convict. The teachers for the prison school are selected from among the prisoners, some of them being very fine scholars.
After school is over the Sunday dinner is served. The prisoners once more march into the dining-room and take their places at the table. The Sunday dinner is the "crack" meal of the institution. At this meal the prisoners have as a luxury, beans, a small piece of cheese and some beet pickles, in addition to their regular diet. This meal is served at 2:30.
The prisoners are then returned to their cells, where they remain until the following morning. They spend their time in the cells which is not taken up by sleeping, in reading. The Prison has a fine library of five thousand volumes. The State Legislature annually appropriates five hundred dollars to be expended in purchasing books.This collection consists of histories, scientific works and books of fiction. Were it not for this privilege of reading, the Sunday after-SUNDAY IN THE PRISON.
noons and winter evenings would seem very long and dreary.
Several officers are on duty during the time the men are locked in their cells on Sunday, and the cell houses are very quiet and orderly, there is no talking, as officers are constantly walking backward and forward in front of the cells.
This is the manner and style of spending the Sabbath in prison. The convicts who do the cooking for the officers and convicts, are compelled to work on Sundays as any other day of the week. It would be nothing more than right to give these men credit for this extra work, and in this manner reduce their sentences. The law does not contemplate that criminals in the penitentiary should work seven days in the week and fifteen hours each day. There are more than fifty men who are forced to put in this extra time in hard labor.