The Walls

Oct 9, 2009 - by J. J. Maloney - 0 Comments

Missouri State Penitentiary

Missouri State Penitentiary 

A first person account of what it was like to serve time in the maximum-security prison at Jefferson City, Missouri.

by J. J. Maloney

When I was sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary at Jefferson City, in February 1960, there were 2,500 men inside "the walls." The white convicts slept three to a cell (except for several hundred in the one-man cells). The blacks slept as many as eight to a cell.

Stabbings and killings, robberies and rapes were common. Dope was easier to get in prison than it was on the streets. There were men in prison who were said to make more money each year from dope and gambling than the warden was paid. There were captains on the guard force who owed their souls to certain convicts.

You never knew whom you might have trouble with. The reasons for murder and mayhem made little sense to anyone except the convicts. So hundreds of men either carried a knife or had one they could get to in an emergency.

You wonder if you have an enemy in the "population." If you have, he has the advantage: He got there first, he made friends, he knows the prison. He has a knife; you don't.

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