June 1907
Brooklyn Standard Union

"Castle William Everyday life of the military prisoners confined there"
Of late years there have been an unusual number of escapes from the old prison, which have been planned and carried out in the face of tremendous odds. . . . Castle Williams itself is an imposing structure . . . It is circular in shape, with a large garden in the center, above which is flanked two rows of cells. The garden is covered with closely cut grass and decorated with pyramids of cannon balls. . . . The ground floor of the castle is used entirely for offices of the prison sergeant, the dining room, the carpenter shop, laundry, bake shop and kitchen. . . . The cells throughout are heated by steam and lighted by electricity. The baths are in excellent condition, and the prison fare, which is always wholesome, is made a special feature at holiday festivities. The menu for each meal is posted on the dining room wall and the following is a sample of the every day fare. "Menu: Breakfast -- Fried bacon, fried potatoes, bread and coffee. "Dinner -- roast young pork, brown gravy, mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, rice pudding, with milk and eggs. "Supper -- Baked pork and beans, pickles, bread and coffee." . . . prisoners eat in first and second calls to mess. The kitchen is a continuation of these rooms and the bake shop opens off the kitchen. When a prisoner enters Castle Williams, he is asked what trade or occupation he pursued prior to entering the army and he is then put to work in a position in which he can do the most good with his time to serve. The overseer, Sergeant Lorenzo Bell, lives in the prison and his office work is creditably transacted, bookkeeping and clerical work being done with the accuracy and despatch that obtain in large legal concerns anywhere, and all this efficiency is the work of the prisoners. There are carpenters who are at present turning out furniture which is used only by officers at the military post; there are shoemakers who are skilled in their trade; tailors who are put to work on the prison clothing; and each one at his trade as in some big industrial school. For the most part, the men are set to work about the grounds of the reservation and some of the boys are at work in the officers' homes. There are 235 at the prison at the present time and the great common cause of their desertion is drink. Whenever the prisoners show rebellion to the order of discipline they are put to work on the rock pile and a few of the obstreperous ones are confined to the solitary cells or dungeons on the top terrace, which are reached by a winding stair, in the tower. The general cells are all built large enough to furnish twelve beds and are perfect in ventilation and sanitation. Each cell opens upon the inner garden, in true Spanish fashion. Each prisoner is furnished with a roughly made cupboard for books and clothes and the little keepsakes from home, and are all well decorated with photographs. Castle Williams is now the proud possessor of a military prison band that practices regularly every evening and frequently gives concerts on the grounds. On Sunday the prisoners in a body attend the services at the The Chapel of St. Cornelius.

an Episcopal Church at 3 P.M., and enter into the song services with keen enjoyment. They are not compelled to attend church but do so voluntarily, and the close communion which exists between Chaplain [Edmund Banks] Smith and the prisoners has helped to make many a hard place smooth. There are stories of hardships, severe discipline and suffering that only a sympathetic servant of God can relieve, and thus many of these soldiers who have served with military distinction are reconciled to the life made melancholy by what might have been. When the prisoner has served his time, allowing a deduction for good behavior, he is given a new suit of clothes and $5 when he leaves Castle Williams. Return to COURT MAIN Return to CIVIL MAIN Return to Newspaper: BROOKLYN STANDARD UNION MAIN Return to BROOKLYN MAIN