Paul Coates -- Confidential File, February 13, 1959
February 13, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Good Resolutions Behind Jail Bars
Not all is grim behind the walls of prisons.
The latest edition of the Menard Time -- monthly tabloid put out by inmates of Illinois State Penitentiary -- has as its "Photo Quiz" question of the month:
What resolutions have you made to make 1959 a better year for you?
Among answers was the following from inmate Bill Herrington:
"I shall abstain from richer foodstuffs, concentrating on basic staples such as beans, spuds and frankfurters. I shall abstain from all legal intoxicating beverages.
"I also resolve to discipline my activities by abstaining from boating, water skiing, mountain climbing and hiking."
also moments of levity.
A subtle one came when a small Mexican boy was passed through the clanking door into the cellblock to visit his father.
Tucked into a holster belt strapped around the boy's waist were two very realistic-looking pistols. But the guard didn't even bat an eye at them.
The Americans picked up in the Rosarito Beach gambling raid were the stars of the show -- the privileged class.
They had extra blankets, special food and the services of "runners" -- kids who'd keep them supplied with coffee, cigarettes and other jail luxuries.
They were allowed visitors just about any time of day or night.
But in Cell 5-C was another American, not quite so lucky. His crime, he told me, was running a red light.
He had one thin blanket to keep himself warm. He ate the regular jail fare. He had no errand boys at his disposal, and when his wife and five kids had come to visit him the night before, they were turned away because it was "too late," even though others received visitors afterward.
He called me over to his cell during one of the few quiet moments there.
Jailers Raise Ante
It was his third day in jail, the man told me.
"They said it would take $80 to get me out," he went on. "So my wife borrowed $80 from a friend of hers. Gave away the pink slip on my car.
"But when she brought the money here, they said it was $24 more. I don't know where she's going to get it. Even if she does, they might just boost it up some more."
I asked him how much time he'd have to serve if she couldn't raise the money.
"I don't know," he answered. "They haven't told me. But I imagine it'll be a long time."