Travels Through North America, during the years 1825 and 1826
By His Highness,
Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach
The county jail contains prisoners who are waiting for trial; they are, however, seldom confined longer than one month before they receive sentence. The house consists of a principal building and two wings; the one for males, the other for females. In the center building are the offices, dwellings of the keepers and watch, as well as the infirmary, where the patients have good bedding, and are carefully nursed. In the wings are long corridors, with rooms on each side, which are closed during the night with iron doors. About eight prisoners sleep in one room, they sleep on the floor, and have only two blankets, to sleep upon and cover themselves. The floor is of boards, and I was delighted at the great cleanliness prevailing through the whole house. At the end of each wing is a yard where the prisoners walk, and in each yard there is a shed under which they work. The men I found busy pulling horse-hair, and most of the females at their usual domestic occupations. Even here we perceived the great distinction between the white and colored races.
The number of female prisoners of both colors was nearly equal, and the colored were not permitted to
sit on the same bench with the white; the colored were separated to the left! I procured a sight of the register, and was astonished to see that in this free country a magistrate has the right to imprison a person for two days, for cursing in the streets, as I found in the book. There are also in the county jail several cells for solitary confinement, narrow dark holes, in which it must be insupportably hot during the summer. Those who are of savage behavior are confined in these cells, and kept there till they become civil.
Of the charitable institutions, we visited first, the Orphan Asylum, and then the hospital for widows, which stand near each other. They owe their origin to the donation of a lady, which has been increased by voluntary contributions, and is now under the direction of a board of ladies, mostly Friends, who are aided by the advice of a few select gentlemen. In the Orphan Asylum were ninety children of both sexes, who remain till they are twelve years of age, and are then bound out to learn a trade. They are educated in the same way as the orphans at New York. During the hours of recess, the children run about in a garden; the house is very cleanly, the bed-rooms are spacious, and each contain twenty beds; nevertheless, two children have to sleep in one bed.
Some years ago, the house caught fire, and the conflagration was so rapid that more than thirty children perished in the flames. In rebuilding the house, they had the praiseworthy consideration to banish wood entirely from the building, and even the stairs are of stone. The Widow's Asylum is tenanted by helpless
widows, over which the above-mentioned board also have control. They are boarded, clothed, and nursed as long as they live. The rooms are occupied by one or two persons each, and there is a common sitting and eating room. In this establishment great cleanliness is also observable.