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The San Francisco Daily Morning Call, July 17, 1864


A visit to the County Prison, in Broadway above Kearny street, will satisfy almost any reasonable person that there are worse hardships in life than being immured in those walls. It is a substantial-looking place, but not a particularly dreary one, being as neat and clean as a parlor in its every department. There are two long rows of cells on the main floor- thirty-one, altogether - disposed on each side of an alley-way, built of the best quality of brick, imported from Boston, and laid in cement, which is so hard that a nail could not be driven into it; each cell has a thick iron door with a wicket in its centre for the admission of air and light, and a narrow aperture in the opposite wall for the same purpose; these cells are just about the size and have the general appearance of a gentleman's state room on a steamboat, but are rather more comfortable than those dens are sometimes; a two-story bunk, a slop-bucket and a sort of table are the principal furniture; the walls in side are white-washed, and the floors kept neat and clean by frequent scrubbing; on Wednesdays and Saturdays the prisoners are provided with buckets of water for general bathing and clothes-washing purposes, and they are required to keep themselves and their premises clean at all times; on Tuesdays and Fridays they clean up their cells and scrub the floors thereof. In one of these rows of cells it is pitch dark when the doors are shut, but in the other row it is very light when the wickets are open. From the number of books and newspapers lying on the bunks, it is easy to believe that a vast amount of reading is done in the County Prison; and smoking too, we presume, because, although the rules forbid the introduction of spirituous liquors, wine, or beer into the jail, nothing is said about tobacco. Most of the occupants of the light cells were lying on the bunks reading, and some of those in the dark ones were standing up at the wickets similarly employed. "Sick Jimmy," or James Rodgers, who was found guilty of manslaughter a day or two ago, in killing Foster, has been permitted by Sheriff Davis to occupy one of the light cells, on account of his ill health. He says his quarters would be immensely comfortable if one didn't mind the irksomeness of the confinement. We could hear the prisoners laughing and talking in the cells, but they are prohibited from making much noise or talking from one cell to another. There are three iron cells standing isolated in the yard, in which a batch of Chinamen wear the time away in smoking opium two hours a day and sleeping the other twenty-two. The kitchen department is roomy and neat, and the heavy tragedy work in it is done by "trusties," or prisoners detailed from time to time for that duty. Up stairs are the cells for women; two of these are dark, iron cells, for females confined for high crimes. The others are simply well lighted and ventilated wooden rooms, such as the better class of citizens over in Washoe used to occupy a few years ago, when the common people lived in tents. There is nothing gorgeous about these wooden cells, but plenty of light and whitewashing make them look altogether cheerful. Mesdames O'Reefe, McCarty, Mary Holt and "Gentle Julia," (Julia Jennings,) are the most noted ladies in this department. Prison-keeper Clark says the quiet, smiling, pious looking Mrs. McCarty is just the boss thief of San Francisco, and the misnamed "Gentle Julia" is harder to manage, and gives him more trouble than all the balance of the tribe put together. She uses "awful" language, and a good deal of it, the same being against the rule. Mrs. McCarty dresses neatly, reclines languidly on a striped mattress, smiles sweetly at vacancy, and labors at her "crochet-work" with the serene in difference of a princess. The four ladies we have mentioned are unquestionably stuck after the County Prison; they reside there most of the time, coming out occasionally for a week to steal something, or get on a bender, and going back again as soon as they can prove that they have accomplished their mission. A lady warden will shortly be placed in charge of the women's department here, in accordance with an act of the last Legislature, and we feel able to predict that Gentle Julia will make it mighty warm for her. Most of the cells, above and below, are occupied, and it is proposed to put another story on the jail at no distant day. We have no suggestions to report concerning the County Jail. We are of the opinion that it is all right, and doing well.

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