Politics Alone Can’t Eliminate All Evils Of ‘The System’

Bureau of Criminal Identification card offering a reward for the capture of Wilfred Lindsly, #23201, who escaped from Angola in 1936. Photo courtesy of LSP Museum
Bureau of Criminal Identification card offering a reward for the capture of Wilfred Lindsly, #23201, who escaped from Angola in 1936. Photo courtesy of LSP Museum

sweat box
Out of the sweat box, circa 1935. Photo courtesy of LSP Museum

The Item (July 20, 1943) Part 13

By “Wooden Ear”

(After the harsh brutality and flagrant graft of the old regime at Angola, a new hope was brought the inmates by the new administration. Subsequent articles in this series written by a former inmate will describe present day conditions there.)

The summer of 1941 passed strangely enough, with not one death in the fields! “Sun stroke,” the term given by the “old regime” to the death of a man who had been driven or beaten to death out in the fields, was gone.

But it must not be thought that because of a political shift human nature underwent a cataclysmic reversal too. To the contrary: that quality, whether convict or free in status, will always remain the same. The following will explain.

A man who shall be named here Captain “Short” was then sergeant-at-arms of the House in Baton Rouge.

Had His Own Ideas

He was hired by the penitentiary in the place of the notorious Captain Wood as head of the women’s unit. His wife was hired as matron.

Short had his own notions about how women were to be handled.

He carried a black-jack. He was deathly afraid of the Amazons in his charge. And one Sunday, observing what he surmised was a “threatening” manner in one of the white women, brutally slugged her with the weapon. She had to be carried to the camp hospital.

A “Dog House”

Short also caused to be constructed a “dog house” at the rear of the camp which was built like a sweat box. In this were placed, for varying lengths of time up to 48 hours, women whom he thought were recalcitrant.

Another favorite Short punishment was strapping women up by their wrists to a beam.

Short was eventually discharged after repeated attempts by the prison management to persuade him that such practices were unnecessary.

(As an aside—it may be mentioned here that Short’s place has subsequently been taken by “T.I. Camel,” father-in-law of J.L. Camel who was discharged because of his starvation tactics.

T.I. Camel was himself a former warden official under the regime of Warden Green. It was at his unit where the old, horrible, deadly tuberculosis “stable” was housed. Camel, too, is part and parcel of the old brutality, but has been employed by the “new regime”—why?)

Bat Goes Into Hiding

Politics, alone, did not change Angola for the better, as this incident will show.

Following a sensational expose of some of the brutal Angola methods, at which time the books and records were thrown open to the press for the first time in history, an edict was handed down by Attorney General Stanley to the effect that corporal punishment for prisoners was illegal.

Governor Jones himself publically decried the use of such things as whips, ropes and sticks, as methods of punishment.

The immediate effect on Angola of all this publicity was to put the “bat” in hiding at the camps whose officials were of the “old regime.”

The “bat” had never been used at such camps as had been given to some of the “new” officials. One captain, O.S. Holcomb, who had charge of the unit where first offenders were segregated, said to this writer in explanation: “If I can’t get a man to work for me without the use of such methods, I resign.”

Whips Nine Men

But on the other side of the farm were units where the illiterate, notorious Captain “Brutal Bill” Morris and Captain “S.H. Rolley,” presided.

Captain Morris’ reaction to the “bat’s” illegality was to whip nine men for a minor infraction—this only two weeks after Attorney General Stanely’s edict.

“Brutal Bill” also told this writer that neither Attorney General Stanely nor Governor Jones was running his camp or his convicts, and that he would continue his methods in his own ways!

Blaze caused to be built at Camp A, the largest Negro unit, three cement cells which were to be used for “solitary confinement” of prisoners whose conduct warranted punishment.

Blaze, however, being a humane man, stipulated that no man was to be left in the cells longer than 12 hours.

The cells have only been used once or twice. They were unneeded.

“Strap Up” System

Blaze also sanctioned strapping a man’s writs to a post for 12 hours. He was forced to stand as best he could in that spot and “reflect upon his misconduct.”

The “strapping up” system, while effective, soon became abused. Captain S.H. Rolley, for example, not only leaves his men strapped up from 24 to 72 hours, but he has added his own sadistic touch to the picture by forcing the helpless man to swallow a quart of epsom salts. The man is not released from his bonds until the stated period of time!

Rolley was the official who had to be forced to use the tractors and other labor-saving farm implements. Rolley is the last man, according to this writer’s personal knowledge, to use the “bat” on a convict—this latter taking place only two months ago!

(Tomorrow’s article concludes this series describing conditions existing at Angola under the “old regime” of brutality and graft and the transition to a new administration and a “new regime.”)

Hell On Angola – The Wooden Ear Series
Ex – Inmate Tells Of Brutalities
Slow workers scream as ‘The Bat’ goes to work
Kicks, Curses Part Of ‘Convict Guards’ Cruelty
Bugs, Heat, Dirt Give Little Chance To Sleep
A New Warden: Prisoners Get Holiday To Mourn For Politico
Reward Guards For Killing
Work Goes On In The Rain
Death For Some: Many Bear Scars On Mind and Body
Even Medical Care Of Prisoners Run By ‘The Regime’
‘Brutal Bill’ Cures Epilepsy With Beatings
New Warden Arrives And Hope For Better Days Lies Ahead
Mess Hall Walkout Brings End Of Starvation Diet Era
Politics Alone Can’t Eliminate All Evils Of ‘The System’
Can Happen Again; Only The Ballot Box Holds Answer