The following paper by Mr. Chris Turvend is one of a number prepared by the members of the class in social pathology at the University of North Dakota, giving the results of their investigations as to the management of local and state institutions, and was published in the Grand Forks Herald. Such training is valuable to the state. In a few years the young people now in college will be determining the policy of the counties and state towards criminals:
"The facts in this article have been gathered through personal observation and through a questionaire. The material collected by the first method is entirely reliable, while that portion is entirely reliable, while that gotten by the second method, I should not, an all cases, vouch for. This is naturally so for political and partisan reasons. The county officials, withing to make a good impression, cannot be blamed very much if they present their institutions in the brightest light possible. Men, today, are doing a great deal for political recognition and renown, and they do it either by covering up the faults or by direct efficiency in bringing about improvements. Jail officers are no exception to this rule. It is, therefore, difficult, and well nigh impossible, to get at the inner workings of such institutions and, especially during only one short visit."
After describing the Grand Forks county jail, the writer says:
"In many respects the Polk county jail resembles the one already described. The plan of construction and arrangement is exactly the same as far as cells are concerned. But this jail has more floor space and in addition to the fourteen regular cells, has a dungeon made of steel slabs. This dungeon is entiely dark, and admits air only through a crooked pipe three inches in diameter. The noisy and unruly prisoner is place in the dungeon to be tamed, and one visit is usually all that is necessary. Further more this jail has two separate cells for women. These are simply ordinary rooms on the second floor of the jail."
"This jail has an ideal location. It is located in the northeast part of the city of Crookston on a high hill which overlooks the surrounding territory. There is a spacious lawn around the structure. No buildings or trees obstruct a free and abundant supply of air and sunlight. The windows are large and the ventilation is good."
"Inside everything is first class. The walls and cells have all been white-washed and the sweet fumes of disinfectants may be discerned by the visitor. At my visit only a few (ten or twelve) prisoners were in jail. This is usually the case in the spring . During the year 1908, 179 persons had been lodged in prison, including more than a dozen women. In 1907 the number was 132."
"The turnkey very courteously answered all my questions and the following information about the care and condition of the prisoners was given: The cost of running the jail, including food supplies and jailor's wages, is $225 per month. The reading matter given to the prisoners consists of magazines and papers that are not locat, Twin City and Chicago papers are read. At least ninety-five or ninety-eight per cent of the criminals can read and write. There is no library in connection with the jail. No work house has been established, and the inmates, with the exception of the "trusty", rarely do any work."
"Those who commit murder or attempt it, are, as a rule, illiterate. Forgeries and burglary are committed by the educated class, but larceny, vagrancy and drunkenness constitute fully ninety per cent of the crimes."
"The jail is filled to its capacity every fall by what might be called 'professional vagrants'. These get drunk and commit a minor crime so as to get a winter's free lodging. They are 'bums' who have no regular work."
"A plan of segregation is carried out in the Polk county jail. Those who are respectable and always keep their persons and cells clean and in order are allowed to remain on the first floor, while the more slovenly and careless are placed on the second floor. There is a marked difference in the matter of cleanliness on the two floors."
"During the week of my visit at the Polk county jail no less than five pleaded guilty under the law which permits a prisoner to plead and receive immediate sentence."
Source: Crookston Times, Saturday, September 25, 1909
Submitted by Brenda G. June 2001
Updated April 21, 2015, K. Kitteeson