for information about ordering the
Maine State Prison Report
Why republish the Maine State Prison Report for 1907?
think a surprising number of people will find it useful! We count students
of public administration, penology, criminal justice, sociology, political
science and history among them, not to mention people interested in state and
local history in Maine, and, of course, genealogists and family historians.
First, a little about the Maine State Prison
Only 60 pages long, this report provides
astonishing detail about the state prison population. It lists the
names of the inmates of the state prison, then located at Thomaston, Maine, in
1907. It also lists those who left the prison (via clemency, via
completion of sentence, or via death) during that year. For the current
prison population, it provides birthplaces, the crimes for which imprisoned, the
counties in which they were convicted of their crimes, the length of their
sentences, their ages in 1907, and the dates the prisoners were sentenced.
Click on the page image below to see full-size a sample page from this section:
The report deals as well with those who were determined to be criminally insane -- or,
as happened even then, those who were insane and being more or less warehoused
in the state prison. Interestingly, the one death reported among the
insane population that year shows "dementia" as the cause of death.
If black sheep great-uncle John (or great-aunt Nina)
seemed to drop off the face of the earth in your family research back in those
days, and the reason happened to involve conviction for a felony in Maine -- or
even loss of their mental faculties, they just might be here, along with enough supporting information to confirm their
identity, as well as the kind of information you can use to locate newspaper articles
or court records that might provide more information.
to see a PDF file of the index we have
compiled of the Maine State Prison Report for 1907.
Being in the state slammer is nothing to
be proud of, as the crimes for which these unfortunates were doing time will
demonstrate. However, we think that this publication will solve some
family riddles that have only become more puzzling as the intervening century
has passed and those with first hand knowledge of the circumstances have passed
The publication also names the individuals
responsible for operating the penal system in Maine in 1907, both at the County
Jail level and at the "big house" as well.
The report evaluates each of the
facilities that made up Maine's penal system at that point in time in considerable detail, and does not hesitate to criticize the county
jails -- and the people responsible for them -- that do not measure up to
current standards both in
terms of efficiency and in terms of prisoner care and rehabilitation.
The publication is also an excellent document
of state of the criminal justice system in 1907, when nationally the Progressive
movement was at its peak. There is descriptive material not only about the
programs in the state prison, but also in the county jails. There is
abundant statistical data at all levels.
In short, we think this is a document of local
history, genealogy, and social history that is well worth preserving.
Where does the Maine State Prison in 1907
fit into the history of the prison system in Maine?
The Maine State Government provides some
excellent historical background on their website, located at
article, we learn that the State prison at Thomaston was established back in
1824 to handle maximum security prisoners, and, at the time of this report,
it retained that role for both men and women. It was not until 1935
that women prisoners were moved to the Women's Correctional Center in
The prison about which this report was
written was built following a fire in 1854. In 1923 fire again claimed
the Maine State Prison. The prison was rebuilt, several additional
prison units dealing with special populations were built over the years, and
in 2002 the last of the prisoners were moved from the prison in Thomaston to
the new Maine State Prison in Warren. The structure at Thomaston was
subsequently demolished with the exception of the Maine State Prison
Showroom, which remains open.
There seem to be many more persons in
State custody in Maine now than there were nearly 100 years ago in 1907.
It appears that there are, both in
absolute numbers and relative to the growth in the state's population.
The population of Maine grew from around 730,000 in 1907 to roughly
1,275,000 in 2000, an increase of roughly 75%.
According to the Maine State Prison Report
for 1907, a total of 521 individuals were "in jail" on December 1, 1907.
This number included a total of 68 in the "big house" -- the Maine State
Prison at Thomaston.
The Maine State Prison website indicates
(2005) that the population capacity of the new Maine State Prison at Warren
is 916. Not given on that website is the population of the county
jails and other, less secure and more specialized facilities in the penal
system within the state. We will make the assumption that the prison
is currently at capacity -- as most prisons today are.
On that basis, the population of the "big
house" has increased from 68 to 916 -- a whopping 1250% increase --
while the State's total population grew only 75%. From the criteria
for admission to the Maine State Prison today (on the state's website), it
appears that the criteria for sentencing to the "big house" are considerably
more stringent today than they were a century ago as well.