could be Buffalo's crossing the platte

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Nebraska Jails


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!!!

After WWII
    Length of time between arrest, trial (or most often today, a plea-agreement) and sentencing gradually increased.

Today's average
    - averages about 7 months in jail waiting for disposition of the case.
    - 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 tidbits.

- Buffalo County Stone building Best in area Sheriff David & Maggie Anderson

     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 poor farm.
        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 wide.
        It also had a large area for exercise or reading.
        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 1800s.
        Kid Wade, a member of Doc Middleton's band of horse thieves
        Held in the Knox County Jail for a short time
        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 1, 1935.
        - 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 livestock.
        - 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 time
        - 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 United States.
        - Beige stucco finish over the original red brick exterior
        - Interior remains much as it was originally built.
        - 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 a dispatcher,
        Also responsible for 911 emergency dispatch for law enforcement, fire, and rescue personnel,

        Weather monitoring
        Incoming phone call screening and transfers
        Numerous jail operations related duties.

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.


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