Early Jail History

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Records

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Early Jail History

Source:  THE MANSFIELD HERALD:  01 November 1883, Vol. 33, No. 50 from an article entitled "Annual Report of the Board of Visitors"


Submitted by Amy


The Jail

The earliest record of a Jail building in Richland County is under date July 10, 1813, when the Commissioners put the basement story of the block house, then standing in the park, in a condition for the reception of prisoners.  This was used three years.  This original building was built without cost by a squad of soldiers, and under the above date was repaired at a cost of $48.00, and after the erection of its successor was sold at auction for $76.40.

The contract for the second combined Court House and Jail was let in 1816 for $1990.00.  This building was of hewn logs, two stories high;  the first story used for a jail, the second for court, town meetings, religious meetings, Sunday Schools, and all other public meetings.  This was used for ten years.  In 1827, or soon after, a third Jail was built on the northeast corner of Third and Sugar Streets, which lasted for more than one half century.  The fourth and present Jail was finished in 1881, at a cost of $40,000 and with a capacity for thirty prisoners.  It is of brick and has ample apartments for the administration;  ornamented with stone, standing on 180x120 feet of land, which cost $4,600.

The executive department is heated by steam under the attendance of the janitor of the Court House.  We believe that uniform heat, to a given degree, was made incumbent upon the administration, but no thermometers are as yet to be seen.  Besides the services of the fireman no help is furnished the administration for the care of the prisoners.

The Board would most earnestly and gratefully call attention to one feature of the Jail of our county, which places it preeminently above any other in the State, of which we have any knowledge.  That feature is the separate system of confinement.  No prisoner converses with any other, or is ever in the company of any other.  Indeed we cannot know who else is in the jail.  This promotes a seriousness of demeanor on the part of every prisoner, the results of which are often seen in the unquestionable desire for reform.  Sheriff Gates, now in charge, once served in similar capacity under the regime of the old Jail, where, as in most jails, the congregate system was in vogue, and volunteers the emphatic statement that while the present system is a little more trouble to the keeper, yet it is notably better for the safety of the building and the morals of the prisoners.

Inhabitants of Richland County may well be proud of the character and administration of a jail that is not excelled by any in the land.  The remuneration for keeping the prisoners has been curtailed rather than increased during the advance in prices.

There have been incarcerated during the year ending October 1st., 1883, 68 persons;  66 of these have been men, and 2 women.  

The place of nativity for --

Illinois ... 1 New York ... 2
Massachusetts ... 1 Ohio ... 57
Michigan ... 1 Pennsylvania ... 6

And one each for Bohemia, Germany, Ireland, New Brunswick and Switzerland.

The average age has been less than 25 years;  8 have been under 20;  31 under 30;  51 under 40;  53 under 50;  and all under 60.  The aggregate number of days is 1,497;  the average number of days for each person is 22.

The occupation of prisoners is not given in the jail registry.

The crimes are --

Assault ... 14 Insane ... 8
Bastardy ... 1 Peace warrant ... 4
Body snatching ... 1 Petty larceny ... 18
Burglary ... 9 Picking pockets ... 1
Carrying concealed weapons ... 1 Rape ... 1
Drunkenness ... 1 Refusal of bond for witness ... 1
False pretenses ... 2 Stoning cars ... 2
Felony ... 1 Violating liquor law ... 2
Horse stealing ... 1 As a witness ... 1

Religious counsel has been given from time to time by pastors and others, by personal visitation to the cells of prisoners.

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