Friday, August 29, 2008

Convict Leasing System

A painful light has been thrown on the State convict-leasing system practised in the Southern States of America by testimony heard before the legislative investigation committee at present sitting in Atlanta. In one state prison farm convicts were, according to a witness, lined up and sold like mules to the highest bidder for their services. One convict was leased out in exchange for seven negroes because he had clerical ability. A white boy was also leased and whipped to death for spilling coffee on a hog; he received 69 lashes and died a week later. Felons are said to be working on outside farms, contrary to law, and public men are alleged to be interested in the leasings of 175 Florida convicts.
Eastern Province Herald - August 24, 1908

How far have we come over the past century? Still man conducts himself in the most vicious manner believing that killing and exploitation will solve all problems. Examples all over the world, generated by greed for material wealth.

1 comment:

markyi said...

See what Florida Department of Corrrections say on their website about treatment of convicts.

Aycock Naval Stores Road Camp Fire Kills Nine
"The stockade at the Aycock Naval Stores Camp burst into flames the evening of Oct. 7, 1905. The camp was located in the logging woods about 10 miles southeast of Chipley but across the Jackson County line. All told, nine men died in the fire.

Some who remembered the tragedy told of hearing the way the chained men hung from the window and begged witnesses to cut off their feet or legs so they could be free before being burned alive. Others told of jeering, drunken guards and trustees who taunted victims and ignored their pleas for help.

According to the Pensacola Journal of Oct. 10, 1905, J.F. Longino was scheduled to work as the regular guard that night. But his brother, J.T. Longino, one of the day guards, pulled the duty while J.F. slept in the stockade's side room.

The fire broke out a little after midnight while J.T. was at the well, a short distance away. As he returned, he saw the blaze and began running toward the burning building. By the time he arrived at the scene, the flames had gained such headway it was impossible for him to release the chain fastened to the prisoners. With the help of the trustees he did succeed in rescuing six from the burning stockade. J.F. Longino, who slept inside, was one of the casualties.

After the fire, Dr. J.S. McGeachy of Chipley cared for the burned victims along with J.O. Kinol, the company's doctor. Stephen Spotes, one of the trustees, blamed the fire on a lamp that exploded. He said he awoke to find the walls around him on fire. He screamed to the other trustee. Together they broke down the door and window. Once the window was open, the chained prisoners crawled out the small opening then hung by their feet until the guard succeeded in cutting some free. Others burned to death in the inferno.

After the horrific blaze, no real investigation was made as to the fire's cause. A coroner's jury did not investigate the scene with the assumption being that an accidental explosion of a lamp ignited the building. But Chipley detective T.J. Watts took it upon himself to determine the real reason for the fire after he heard some rumors. In a letter to Gov. N.B. Broward, dated Oct. 23, 1905, Watts reported that "the guard and one convict were murdered by Jim Glassco, a free black laborer. The motive was robbery. J.F. Longino had $48.10 on his person, the convict $5. Glassco killed both men by crushing their skulls with a railroad spike maul. He torched the stockade to make it look like the fire caused the death of the men."

Sam Jones, a trustee at the camp, became the principal witness for the state. Jones testified that he saw Glassco enter the guard room immediately before the fire, heard two heavy blows and saw the flames shoot up. Then he watched Glassco flee from the room and run out of the stockade. Watts believed Jones knew so much about the fire because he was an accessory to the crime. But he could not prove it, so he arrested Glassco and charged him with murder. He took Glassco to Marianna to await the action of the grand jury. The leaseholders received severe criticism for neglecting their prisoners' welfare and safety even though the fire was really set by a murderer intent on hiding the evidence. Little came of the case, however.

Gov. Broward accepted carelessness and drunkenness on the part of the guard as the cause of what was described as "one of the most horrible crimes ever committed in the state." Aycock Lumber Co. was not permitted to lease convicts for several years.

As the naval stores industry grew in this section of Northwest Florida, increasing numbers of convicts were leased from the state. By 1910, stockades existed at places like Donaldson Point in Parker, Oliver Creek near Cook Bayou, Tompkins on the west side of what is today Deer Point Lake and several other locations. Prisoners turpentined the pine trees in the surrounding woods."