NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library



The most demoralizing, the most degrading of all prison features, is the "dope" habit, which causes endless grief and trouble, not only to the users themselves, but to the prison managers as well. It appears that the use of "dope" originated in England in the seventeenth century when times were hard and wages so low that the people could not afford to indulge in ale or whiskey, but .had to find something cheaper, thus started the use of "dope." It was thought with wages rising that this practise (sic) would cease but it did not, on the contrary

"Those eat now, who never ate before,
And those who always ate, now eat the more"

and from England the habit spread all over the world, and once a slave of this deadly drug it is almost impossible to dispense with it. To get it, a user will lie, steal, even commit murder, and under the influence



of it he will commit any crime on the calendar. Many prisoners are users of "dope" when they come to the prison, and try to smuggle a supply in with them in various ways, mostly in their shoes. I have seen the heels of a pair of shoes hollowed out and sufficient "dope" inserted to last a man for several years. Of course this is promptly destroyed. Some of the prisoners who never used it on the outside become users of it in prison. Perhaps they are put in the cell with one of these "dope" fiends who invites them to try it. They do, and like it. Soon they take another jolt and before they know it, they become "dope" fiends themselves.

There is, however, some excuse for prisoners using this poison. Some of them, having been behind the bars for many years, completely shut off from all stimulants, after years of hard work, and all the time doing over and over again the same monotonous prison routine, find themselves some day


mentally and physically weak and in need of some stimulant, and not being able to get any liquors, resort to "dope." Others may be sick, or have some grievance, imaginary or otherwise, and try to drown their troubles by using "dope." Looking at it in this light, there may be some excuse for it; and if you, my reader, were lying in a little steel cell in deadly pain or worried to death over the turn your affairs had taken, and sleep would not come to you, if one little piece of morphine about the size of a pin-head would put you to sleep, and give you sweet dreams besides, many of you would fall for it. Dreams of the sweetest kind come to the users of "dope," pipe dreams as they are commonly called; perhaps you see the pearly gates and the garden of paradise and the house of many mansions. I recall the poet's description of such a pipe dream:

"The appearance instantaneously disclosed
Was of a mighty city - boldly say
A wilderness of building, sinking far
And self withdrawn into a wondrous depth


Far sinking into splendor without end,
Fabric it seemed of diamond and of gold
With alabaster domes and silver spires
And blazing terrace upon terrace, high
Uplifted, here serene pavillions (sic) bright
In avenues disposed, there towers begirt
With battlements that on their restless fronts
Bore stars --- illuminations of all gems."

What an awful disappointment after dreaming such a dream, to awaken and find yourself behind the prison bars. And after the awakening comes those awful pains for which there is but one cure - another jolt of "dope." Much attention has been paid to an article read by Judge Lincoln Frost before the Social Service Club, dealing with the "dope" habit and other vices at the penitentiary. Before completing this chapter I called upon the judge. I asked him if he had ever met Mr. Delahunty, and he said that he did not even know him personally. I told him that I wished that he had called upon the warden and gotten the information from him. There being always two sides to a story, it is well to hear both sides; and if Judge Frost had gone in person