Missouri Penitentiary Board of Inspectors records  1843-1854
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Minutes of the Board of Inspectors of the Missouri State Penitentiary were kept irregularly during the somewhat irregular meetings of the Board between 1843 and 1854. Although the minutes of a typical meeting are brief and minimally informative, on occasion, situations arising at the prison necessitated longer deliberation and more specific instructions.

The most detailed sections of the minute book were kept in 1843, when the existing prison structures were being improved (with the use of convict labor) and when a rash of prison escapes led to inquiries into the lessees' management of the prison. Of greatest value is the set of regulations passed for oversight of convict labor leased to private contractors (March 18, 1843), which includes specifications on the duties of the overseer of the prisoners, the guards, the prison physician, chaplain, and miscellaneous rules pertaining to prisoners and visitors. A second set of regulations (February 6, 1846) provides some emendations of these rules, including the banning of swine from the prison grounds. From the perspective of an historian interested in the relationship between architecture and institutional functioning, the lengthy and detailed specifications for the construction of a new prison wing, June 9, 1845, are of equal importance.

Following a gap in the records between January, 1844, and May, 1845 -- during which time the Board probably met, but "appeared to be somewhat remiss in their documentation of events at the prison" -- the records suggest that discipline was imparted with somewhat greater zeal, with a corresponding rise in prisoners' complaints.

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