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About Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922 | View Entire Issue (Dec. 10, 1911)
The. Omaha Sunday Bee Magazine
Old Outpost of Civic Virtue is Now Haven of Hopeless
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CROSS the atone threshold of tha old
Dodge school have skipped the feet of
happy childhood, light and nimble as
fawns. Over the same threshold goes
today the weary, feet of the derelicts
of life. Where devoted teachats ftave
their consecrated efforts to Instilling
the elementary lessons of good citizenship into bud
ding minds, there today Is found the climax of mis
take, of passion, of weakness the accumulated
sum of degradation.
And the place itself Is a blackhole verging so
closely on the barbarous aa to bring condemnation
from all visitors. . Inmates under compulsion must
suffer tortures not contemplated by either correc
tlre or punitive, law. It would hardly be true to
say they leave hope behind at the door, but having
crossed the threshold, they have lost something of
the courageous self-respect that attaches to decent
manhood and womanhood. Only the strongest
moral fiber can withstand the strain of any very
lengthy stay In this detention depot for the offend
ers of a modern city. Here, indeed, is one very
weak link in the community life of Omaha, aa
Chief Donahue and all his officers agree. Expert
criminologists go farther, and have repeatedly said
the place is a disgrace to the spirit of the time.
liullding Krerted to Portwtall Evil
The happy chatter and the ringing laughter of
eiuberant youth have given way to the voices of
protest, of blasphemy, of sorrow and of grinding
discord. It la but another rase of good Intention
frustrated by bitter experience; of hope shattered,
and bright expectation gone astray. For the Dodge
srnool bad its being in the clean minds of men and
women who desired to make it. an outpost of
righteousness that should stand against the ap
proach of evil. The good school was built and ran
Its course; then gave way to the service of the very
thing It was designed to combat'
When William A. Gwlre had .his residence on
the northwest corner of Eleventh and Dodge streets
which was a good many years ago he reached
the conclusion that the establishment of a public
school In that neighborhood was the. one thing
needed to improve its tone. . Even In that early day
Mr. Gwlre observed that conditions were not what
they should b In his immediate section, and were
threatening to become worse; At the time dis
cussion was rife on the subject of better school
facilities. It was the day of the olds North, South
and West school, and In order to make good on hla
theory Gwlre became a candidate for the school
board, and was elected. He worked to such good
purpose that the East (Dodge) . school was built.
It Is todsy used as police headquarters and for the
purposes of a city jail.
Police fetation Since 1808
The city took over,the building from the school
board in April, 18. It was late summer before
the police department moved into the building,
from the old headquarters in the basement of the
Uoos hotel, now the Savoy hotel, at Fifteenth and
Jarbsoa. In the meantime the driveway and barn
Lad btt constructed, the old double steps removed
from the sidewalks on Dodge and Eleventh streets,
the fence removed from the top of the brick wsll
at the street line, and some other changes made.
' TeU your troubles Jo th policeman" loaes its
poasxw-old ncxa0s sr.scsooz -jsrtwxBs cxrr xaa
Jocular aspect here, the focal point of all troubles
Incident to city life. And such troubles! They
gather in number and kind, and unfold Jn such
fashion that officers in charge and desk sergeants
almost lose the sense of grief common to normal
people when their fellows are in trouble.
Grief Intrudes Hay and Night
"It's all in the day's work," says Captain Demp
sey, "but at that a man must maintain the right
perspective to hold his faith in humanity." And
even aa he speaks a smartly attired little woman
Is referred to him from "the desk," where all In
quiries go first. Her face indicates worry and tell
tale traces of tears are not lacking. She wants to
see her husbsnd, who has been locked up for na
sault and battery, and requests the privilege In a
manner half fearful and half ashamed. After
ascertaining what offense the man Is charged with,
the officer sends her to the turnkey, who brings the
prisoner to the Iron gate on one side of his little
This little woman is but a type of many who
sorrowfully find their wsy to the police station in
the course of a week. Sometimes it is a wife, again
a mother, daughter or sister; a father, son or
brother. Even when the charge Is merely of a
mlnor nature, the visit of relatives to the city
prltton Is tho test of fealty to kin; and It must be
said for the officers in charge that they exercise a
sense of courtesy that is commendable when the
offender la worthy of any consideration. The sad
dest and most trying Incidents occur when murder
hss been done or very serious moral turpitude is In
volved. Then tears, regrets and expressions of
peuitence mingle with appeals, urglngs. and mayhap
the word of cheer and hopefulness. The first shock
of finding a loved one locked up soon wears off In
most cases, say the police officers; but In some in
stances every visit to the prisoner gives fresh
poignancy to the grief of those who come to see
him, especially If they be women.
"It may seem a strange thing to say. but fathers
take serious cases the hardest," said an old officer
who has had much experience at the station. "I
mean by that, they do not recover their equanimity
In the face of possible disgrace aa readily as women.
The mothers, wives, sisters and daughters may
suffer more acutely, but they can more easily find
excuse or palliation for the crime than can a man
who has all his life traveled a strslght road and
made It a point to keep bis honor unsullied. He
takes he crime of his kin aa a reflection on him
self and assumes the burden of defease or help
as something peculiarly his own. He may conceal
his grief more successfully than the women, but he
Is hurt more deeply, aa a rule."
In spite 6f the Inherent gloom ; attaching, to, a.
prison, the life' of the men in. charge hs not all sur
charged with sadness. - There are many instances of
a ridiculous or. humorous character .to lighten! the
day and the night. 'Along about mldnlghU-when .
the city has gone to sleep, and. even the night re
porters are finding it an Irksome task to kill time,
it gives a new zest to life to have shouts resound
from the front door. Immediately all ears, are
flapping and eyes wide open. Then there comes
stumbling in a husky colored damsel, with arms
waving apd every fiber of her-body quivering,' d!s-
heveled from hair to heel. '
Dope-Takers Cultivate Bad Dreams
"Stop Mm, ketch 'im," she yells, and grasps the
wire in front of the desk, panting and shivering,
out of breath and eyes rolling like an angry sea.
"Coke," mutters the' desk sergeant wearily.
"Lock "or up.".
"Dey's a-chasin' me, "Insists the excited woman. ,
"Dey'll cahve me. sure ef yuh-all don' stop "em:"
"Of course they will," says the officer, "unless
you let the dope alone." And Into the pen she goes
to sleep it off.
The "funny drunk" is another aource of relief.
Too full to care for himself, too wesk in the knees
to navigate, he yet has excellent control of a busy
tongue, with probably a revived memory for an
old song, or the hunch to make daffydllla. Police
men learn repartee aa they learn to swing a club,
by association, and they practice the virtue of pa
tience to the limit when some poor devil drifts in
who ran laugh at the fate that hns overtaken him."
Some drunka will give up substantial sums of
money willingly, but will fight to retain a bottle
of whisky. Cocaine users would give an eye If they
could take to the cell with them some of their dear
est enemy. '
There are other scenes, astonishing in a way,
but pathetic and pitiable. A wagon load will be
brought In from a raid on suspected rooming houses
or chop sucy joluts. Among the persons taken In
the haul are often young girls or women who may
be classed as occasional frequenters of such places.
Sometimes white women are taken with colored
men. If they have the necessary funds for cash
ball, or a friend who will put up. the detention is
not for long, and having given an assumed name,
they go away with the determination never to be
caught again. In the cases of first arrest, bitter
tears accompany picas to be let "go home." Fear
of discovery Is greater than sorrow for offending
against morals and dlsregsrd of home training, and
in the case of timid girls and boys, too one les
son may be all that Is needed. This will be the
case very often if the boy or girl has to go to a
cell. Here, too. the officer In charge must exercise
a wise Judgment, and see to It that only the hard
ened and chronic offenders go Into the general
lockup. The matron's quajters will be the tempo
rary refuge for the girls too young to be confirmed -In
Cell I loom an Inferno at Night
And what of the city jail behind the bars? The
first whiff of the air inside the door tells the story;
and the first sound Is likely to bring swift con
firmation. Crowded quartera these, even In ordi
nary hours, but when the congregated riffraff Is
numerous souls not seared with crime or deadened
in misery must shudder at the prospect of a night
therein. Noisy drunks, ribald vagabonds, piratical
negro wenches, snoring hellions, singing Incom
petentsabandoned women and cursing, vindictive
men all combine In the raucuous Jesting and call-
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tbumpian vulgarity that produces a shockingly good
imitation of hell. There is little or no ventilation,
a stifling warmth, vitiated atmosphere, the aroma
of unwashed bodies and brothellzed breaths, mixed
with an effluvia of stench that Is not to be too
closely and can hardly be fittingly characterized.
City Jail a Modem niackhole.
The Omaha city jail is worse than war in danger
to health and morals of those lnmatea who have
left any pretensions to either. It Is, perhaps, ss
good a place on which to center missionary effort
aa any In the world. It would be a tough jungle,
indeed, that could offer any better. Here the worst
of all nations arrive at one time or another during
the year. Old soak and young desperado, lost
woman and devitalized man, shrinking venturers In
wickedness - and plumed bravados of the demi
monde, unfortunate working women and penniless
wanderers, hot-tempered killers and victims of cruel
circumstance, crafty thieves and bungling check
workers, desperate burglars and sneaking holdups,,
strong fighting men and cowardly wife beaters, fol
low one another across the repellant scene day after
day. In one long procession of discouraging die
grace and hopeless future. Perhaps the world is
recompensed for the lost usefulness of these by the
fresh energy and solid' ideals of the thousands of
boys snd girls. who spent happy days wltliin the
walla where the very antithesis of happinttss rules
the hour today.
Sufficient to all purposes having any relation to
the work of policing a city Is this Omaha Jail plant.
Not only are the law violators spotted from here,
in a great many casea, and trailed from here by
the plain clothes men, but here' they axe fed, given
medical and . aurgical aid, washed, dreesed and
'then tried and sentenced. Talking pf:washlug and
dressing, it must be understood that this process
dependa largely on the man or woman. Some In
mates, men almost exclusively, seem to have a
horror of soap and water, born savages or cave men
by backward evolution, whose only hours of worry
are when they are halfway clean.
One room on the ground floor Is devoted td
the uses of the police physicians, who here gather"
In a short time a goodly store of experience. All
sorts of cases are treated in twenty-four hours,
from a face cut to a gash opened by a razor swung
with malicious freedom,; from a gunshot wound to
a poisoned stomach. Thus, in getting arrested,
many a fractious citizen manages to dodge doctors' j
bills; and, too, many of tho afflicted folk passing!
through the police station are decidedly better,
physically, when they leave than when they ar- !
rived.; : '
In the basement the food for the prisoners is
prepared, not In fancy style, but with a generous
allowance of bread, powerful coffee -and always
the life-saving onion. When doctored, cleaned as
far as may be, sobered and fed, the "cases" are es
corted upstairs at the proper time to pass before
the police magistrate. This ceremony occurs in
what vt as once a school room, and the pupils bor-
rowing the term for the moment act very much as
Juvenile offenders against school rules are wont to
do. They hans their heads, shuffle their feet, nuxy
their hands with hat or handkerchief. Us ton in
sullenness or simulated amazement to the charges,
and make pleas that through all the ages of man
have varied but little. Here it is the student of
, , human nature can gain a Kind of knowledge avail
able nowhere else. The work Is not attractive, nor
, is the system anything approaching the ideal, but
the action is swift. It is an important case that
. stops the wheels of this justice shop for more than
a minute or two, and "records" are rather proudly
mentioned by the attending crflclals, where several
score of petty offenders; have been railed, heard
. and sentenced or acquitted, in the time It might
; take an agile fly to bore through the tender bald
spot on "Judge" Mahouey's dome of thought.
"Move on," says the policeman. "Next," says
the Judge. And the prisoners mutter the Irreverent,
comment of the famous gunner from Galway.
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