Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fear and Loathing in the Arkansas State Penitentiary: A Historical Account 1 Vote Arkansas State Penitentiary Prisoner (1915) – Image found by Bruce Jackson In August 1966, Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the state police to investigate Tucker Prison Farm in Arkansas (Tucker). This investigation was a long time coming. Prisoners at Tucker (also at the other state prison farm Cummins) had, for years, tried to have their complaints heard to no avail. The CID returned a report detailing a pattern of entrenched corruption, brutality, and torture. The Governor ultimately tried to have the report suppressed. It was eventually released in 1967 after a new Governor named Winthrop Rockefeller took office. In Arkansas, the whipping of prisoners was permitted by law and as late as the early 1970s was still being practiced. There were a number of tools used to inflict corporal punishment on prisoners including “the strap” which was “more than five feet long, five inches wide, three-eighths of an inch thick with an eighteen-inch wooden handle.” One of the most infamous and cruel instruments of torture used at the prison, however, was a device called “the Tucker Telephone:” “The telephone, designed by prison superintendent Jim Bruton, consisted of an electric ‘generator’ taken from a crank-type telephone and wired in sequence with two dry-cell batteries. An undressed inmate was strapped to the treatment table at Tucker Hospital while electrodes were attached to his big toe and to his penis. The crank was then turned, sending an electrical charge into his body. In ‘long distance calls’ several charges were inflicted — of a duration designed to stop just short of the inmate’s fainting. Sometimes the ‘telephone’ operator’s skill was defective and the sustained current not only caused the inmate to lose consciousness but resulted in irreparable damage to his testicles. Some men were literally driven out of their minds. The Tucker telephone was used not only to punish inmates but to extract information from them. One of the two telephones known to be on the farm was found hidden in a hat box on the top shelf of a linen closet in the Big House, where Jim Bruton was living then (Murton & Hyams 1969, 7).” It won’t come as a surprise to readers that black prisoners were the vast majority of the individuals who were subjected to the “Tucker Phone.” Unfortunately the discovery of this torture apparatus was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the events taking place at Tucker. Not only were prisoners beaten with leather straps, blackjacks, and hoses, needles were shoved under their fingernails, and cigarettes were applied to their bodies. The report also detailed a list of other horrors that prisoners were subjected to on a daily basis. In an article titled “Hell in Arkansas,” Time magazine reported on the efforts of a reform-minded superintendent of Tucker prison named Thomas Murton who had been appointed by Governor Rockefeller in 1967. The article outlines what Mr. Murton found upon his arrival at Tucker: When Thomas Murton, Rockefeller’s 39-year-old reform appointee to the prison superintendent’s job, took over early in 1967, enforced homosexuality and traffic in liquor and narcotics were rampant at Tucker and the Cummins prison farm. Trusties, armed with shotguns, were squeezing weekly payoffs out of the “rankmen,” or ordinary inmates, who worked under their supervision. Often the trusties, who lived in unlocked TV-and-refrigerator-equipped shacks, fired rifles inches over rankmen’s heads simply for sport. Murton quickly abolished many of the grotesque practices, but he was troubled by continuing rumors that prisoners had been murdered and buried on the prison grounds. Ultimately, Murton only spent a year as superintendant at Tucker and a year later he published an absolutely scathing indictment of the prison farm in a book titled “Inside Prison U.S.A.” The book is out of print now but if you are a student of penal history, it is a must-read. If you are curious about what happened to the former superintendent Jim Bruton after he “resigned” from his position when the CID report was released. Here is a short summary from Time Magazine in 1970: At Arkansas’ Tucker prison farm, “the Tucker telephone” was a fearsome means of communicating the superintendent’s displeasure. It consisted of an old-fashioned crank-phone apparatus that was wired to the genitals and one of the big toes of recalcitrant prisoners. When the crank was spun, the recipient of the message was shocked nearly unconscious. James Bruton, the superintendent who designed and used that device, resigned in 1966 when state officials began a series of investigations of brutality in the Arkansas prisons (TIME, Feb. 9, 1968). Last week Bruton pleaded no contest to charges that he violated prisoners’ civil rights by administering cruel and unusual punishment. The penalty he received was considerably more compassionate than many he himself had dealt out. The maximum permissible sentence that could be imposed on Bruton under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1871 was a $1,000 fine and one year in prison. Federal Judge J. Smith Henley imposed the full penalty, complained that it was too light, and then made it even lighter. He suspended execution of the prison term and released Bruton on a year’s probation. Henley’s explanation: “The court doesn’t want to give you a death sentence, and quite frankly, Mr. Bruton, the chances of your surviving that year would not be good. One or more of these persons or their friends with whom you have dealt in the past as inmates of the Arkansas penitentiary would kill you.” HERE IS WHAT JIM BRUTON IS DOING NOW! YOU SEE- CRIME DOES PAY, IF YOU ARE A GOVERNMENT CRIMINAL! Jim Bruton For More Information Call: 651-735-2080 THERE IS NO OTHER WAY to describe it but bone chilling and riveting to face and hear about the realities of life inside a maximum security prison, as you sit on the edge of your chairs listening to former warden, Jim Bruton speak about PRISON – from the INSIDE! Jim takes you behind the walls and to the other side of the razor ribbon as he educates his audiences with the grim realities of a world that few people will ever know or understand. Yet, he does it in an enlightening, refreshing and entertaining style, that engages listeners to the stark realities through first hand experiences, wit, facts and humor. THIS IS PRISON – FROM THE INSIDE! Jim Bruton is the author of THE BIG HOUSE: Life Inside a Supermax Security Prison by Voyageur Press. Jim Bruton, former warden at Minnesota’s maximum security prison speaks about a frightening insiders look at life inside a world famous correctional facility, while bringing his listening audience face to face with the grim and sinister realities of prison – from the INSIDE! Jim tells numerous stories and chilling and gruesome anecdotes about the prisoners as he takes the audience with him through the stark corridors and into the maximum security cell blocks, to face some of the countries most dangerous prisoners. Listeners experience the daily activities and life along side the world of murders, robbers, rapists and thieves: child molesters, predators, drug smugglers and gang members, all a part of this neighborhood. Jim Bruton is an accomplished speaker and author. He was the warden of Minnesota’s maximum security prison at Oak Park Heights and spent 35 years in the field of corrections. He was a former deputy commissioner of corrections for the state of Minnesota, a member and vice chairman of the state parole board, a probation and parole officer, and superintendent of a county correctional facility. Jim is the author of THE BIG HOUSE; Life Inside A Supermax Security Prison by Voyageur Press. He also authored portions of SUPERMAX PRISONS: Beyond the Rock by the American Corrections Association. He has a Bachelors Degree from the University of Minnesota, and a Masters Degree from the University of St. Thomas. Jim is an adjunct faculty at Hamline University and the University of St. Thomas (22years) and has been an adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota, Century College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Metropolitan State University. As one who has lived what he teaches, Jim’s experiences have proven to be a popular program for student classes, seminars and public speeches. Jim’ speaking bond and unique ability to interact with his audience is extraordinary, and leaves listeners wanting more stories, factual realities, first hand anecdotes, and a thirst for more of the fascinating lifestyle behind the walls of a maximum security prison. Perhaps the very best of all accolades and compliments bestowed from an audience is the desire to have a speaker return for another engagement. Jim’s speaking history is filled with these gratifying requests of “we want you back” to be part of our program again! Areas of Expertise: Prisons/institutions/correctional facilities Criminal Justice Corrections Criminal Minds Fee: Keynote fee up to 90 minutes: $2000. Half day fee up to 3 hours: $3000. Full day fee up to 6 hours: $5000. Jim's Most Requested Programs: “WALK WITH THE WARDEN AS THE WARDEN TELLS ALL” “THE BIG HOUSE: LIFE INSIDE A SUPERMAX SECURITY PRISON” Take a walk with the former warden into one of the most secure prisons in the world. Journey down the stark corridors and into the cellblocks where some of the most dangerous of all prisons live. Listen to the incredible stories and anecdotes of those who live in a neighborhood that few people will ever get to know or understand. “THIS IS PRISON – FROM THE INSIDE!” “THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM FROM A FORMER WARDEN’S PERSPECTIVE” Get a first hand view of the criminal justice system in American from a former prison warden and one who spent 35 years in the corrections system, and over 22 years in academic classrooms of major colleges and universities. Learn through real life anecdotes and stories about life inside the system from a point of view refreshing and rarely heard before. Travel into a controversial system with a professional who lived the business for over three decades working in most areas of corrections and among societies’ criminal element. Testimonials: “Jim Bruton, the former warden of the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights, has much to say about the state of our nation’s prisons. During his career, he has demonstrated the ability to be simultaneously tough and humane in his treatment of inmates. Drawing upon his vast experience with incarcerated felons, Bruton informs and entertains his listeners in a way that is sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, and always interesting. He offers his audience a compelling and thought-provoking correctional philosophy that has helped make Minnesota a model for corrections in the United States.” Peter Parilla, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and former chair, University of St. Thomas. “Jim Bruton is among the very best among the faculty at the University of St. Thomas. His teaching competence, devotion to the university, and his professional commitment to society speaks so well to his commitment to our mission. Mr. Bruton achieves the highest course evaluations in a department of faculty known for the high quality of our teaching. Students respect his professional skill and value the depth of his knowledge about corrections. Students report that he is well prepared, enthusiastic, and genuinely cares about their learning and professional development. A frequent comment is “I always enjoy coming to class!” Meg Wilkes Karraker, Ph.D, Professor and former Chair Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of St. Thomas. “Since 2000, James Bruton has taught continuously in an adjunct capacity within our undergraduate program. Mr. Bruton integrates well his extensive professional background in correctional practice with the theoretical framework of our upper-level course offerings in juvenile justice and corrections. His long-standing commitment to the preparation of future criminal justice professionals is an important aspect of our student’s education. Moreover, Mr. Bruton has received very favorable student reviews of his teaching methods and his overall effectiveness as an instructor.” Professor Jerry Krause, Director of Criminal Justice, Hamline University. “As the former warden of one of the best supermax prisons in the country, Jim Bruton has a powerful message to tell. He has seen it all and behind the bars of the prison has met some of the most interesting - and dangerous - felons in the nation. Bruton ran a safe prison, with few assaults and no escapes. He looked no nonsence but treated inmates with civility and, when they deserved it, compassion. Bruton is a fine teacher in college criminal justice courses. One of the reasons is that he is a compelling speaker!” Dave Nimmer, former reporter WCCO Radio/TV and the Minneapolis Star/Tribune and retired journalism professor at the University of St. Thomas. To receive more information, testimonials, packets, and/or a video - or if you would like to talk directly to Jim Bruton about how he would fit with the event you are planning - Call the staff at today. We will get you all the information you need in order to make the Right speaker decision for your organization! The Right Speaker with the Right Topic at the Right Price That's what you'll find through! (651) 735-2080 or toll free (877) 234-6086

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