Subject: Jail Registers
Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 15:16:17 -0500
From: [An inspector of Nebraska jails]
Here's some other interesting information about these old jail registers,
that I've found as I have scanned through them.
Most of the older era jail records involve persons charged with petty crimes
of theft, wife abandonment, crap shooting, adultery, drunkenness, disturbing
the peace, forgery, etc.
Occasionally though, there will be a jail record of someone brought in on
more serious charges (robbery, 1st degree assault, rape, etc).
Trend until late 1930's
- tried, convicted, and sentenced to the State Penitentiary
in only 3 - 5 days.
- Often within the week shipped off to Lincoln for a 10, 20
or even 50 year prison sentence.
- Amazing - think of the due process legal challenges that
today's criminal defense attorneys would be able to present if their
client's were booked, tried, convicted, sentenced and shipped off to the
State Pen in 3 days!!!
Length of time between arrest, trial (or most often today, a
plea-agreement) and sentencing gradually increased.
- averages about 7 months in jail waiting for disposition of
- Not uncommon for someone facing more serious charges like
murder or multiple felony charges to spend 12-18 months in jail - waiting
for the court process to handle their case.
some folks actually were probably fortunate they wound up in the hands of
local law enforcement, rather than the town vigilante group.
I have read about lynchings that took place seemingly all over the place, so
much so, that it often seems to have been the preferred method of crime
resolution whenever someone was accused of a more serious crime like murder,
rape, or worst of all... livestock theft.
Some interesting Nebraska jail historical
- Buffalo County – Stone building – Best in area – Sheriff David &
Kearney Daily Hub – 1914
The secretary of the State Board of Charities and
Corrections reported on a tour of inspection of the Buffalo County jail and
The jail was described as a two-story
stone building 30 feet by 40 feet
4 cages or cells, all connected and
each about 6 feet by 7 feet, in front of which was a corridor about 6 feet
It also had a large area for exercise
The building was described as: Quite
old but in a good state of preservation
Not rated a No. 1 jail, but much better than the average.
The jailer and his family were quartered in the upper story.
- Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and Jail (North Platte) annual budget
rose from $1192.13 in 1886 to almost $2,000,000 in 2001.
- Knox County - much cattle rustling in late 1800’s.
Kid Wade, a member of Doc Middleton's
band of horse thieves
Held in the Knox County Jail for a
Sentenced and later transported
through Brown County in 1884 when a band of vigilantes took him and lynched
him from a railroad crossing signal post.
- Sheridan County first Sheriff was John Riggs
Served from 1886 to 1888.
One of Rigg's 1st first official acts
appoint Doc Middleton deputy
Notorious horse thief, outlaw, former
prison inmate of Riggs
Presumably to keep Middleton from
stealing his cattle.
By all accounts it appears that
Middleton was a good deputy and went on to serve as a law enforcement
official in other Western Nebraska towns.
- Hitchcock County had a female sheriff from April 1, 1933 to January
- Mabel M. Campbell appointed after
husband, Rush, died in office.
- Their son, Lynn, was elected
Sheriff and served from January, 1935 to July 1, 1942.
- Speaking of female Sheriff's - this position may be the last bastion of a
male dominated vocation (aside from NFL football players) although this is
nothing which can not be directly attributed back to the voters, and female
deputies who decline to run for this elected office - since there are many,
many female deputies out there - but no Sheriffs. In fact, I have not even
heard of a female even running for the office of Sheriff here in Nebraska,
let alone getting elected.
- Valley County (Ord) crimes today, as in the past, involve theft of
- In 1982(yes 1982)a horse theft case
became a political nightmare
- Sheriff arrested two former law
enforcement officers as suspects, one of whom was running for the office of
Sheriff in an adjoining county.
- Madison County 1924 overcrowding former Jail.
- 5 men convicted of bootlegging
liquor to Indians
- Brought jail total to 13 inmates.
- Present jail facility built in 1996
holds 115+ inmates.
- Plum Creek – 1873 - horse thief was sentenced to death by hanging.
- A state witness informed the judge
he did not have legal authority to deliver a sentence that severe.
- Dawson County had no jail at the
- judge was adamantly opposed to the
expense of having the prisoner guarded
- horse thief was granted 15 minutes
to leave and get out of the state, under threat of suffering undisclosed
consequences if caught.
- The man took advantage of the
judge's offer and was never again seen in Plum Creek.
- Webster County Jail in Red Cloud, Nebraska in 1890, is the oldest
operating jail in Nebraska, (2002) and one of the oldest in the entire
- Beige stucco finish over the
original red brick exterior
- Interior remains much as it was
- Cell locking systems and
six-prisoner cellblock remain the same as originally constructed.
In approximately 66% of Nebraska's jails, inmate supervision is provided by
Also responsible for 911 emergency
dispatch for law enforcement, fire, and rescue personnel,
Incoming phone call screening and
Numerous jail operations related
Frequently this position is staffed by individuals earning only a little
more than a minimum wage
Working shift hours on evenings and
nights, with odd days off, and with very few fringe benefits.
Sheriff's often struggle to find
replacement workers for these jailer/dispatch positions because of the
difficult working conditions which involve regular dealings with prisoners
and inmates in-house, and stressful, intense emergency 911 dispatch
situations, and the ever present potential of civil liability from lawsuits.
Often the jail's funding authority of a county board of commissioners will
only begrudgingly give financial approval for slight annual raises of a few
pennies an hour to these staff.
Jail staff in the larger departments
and facilities fare much better,
It always amazes me that people will
even work for some of these small town jails and sheriff's departments
And the stingy attitudes of county
board members, who in a heartbeat will vote for approval of a new
Caterpillar Road maintainer costing $150,000+, but won't allocate an extra
dime for their employees or the operational needs of their jails - which
contrary to some, are not country clubs that coddle prisoners.
Most jails are still pretty bleak. Priorities I guess.
- 25% of Nebraska's 71 jail facilities have only one male housing unit and
cannot separate prisoners according to various classifications.
- Approximately 40% of Nebraska's jail facilities were built prior to WW II.