Green Bay Correctional Institution: A troubling start
By Kris Leonhardt
Part III in a series
For Part I, click here. For Part II, click here.
On June 23, 1898, the cornerstone for the first wing of the Wisconsin State Reformatory in Green Bay was laid.
From there, work progressed on the outer walls, windows, and granite, but installation of the cell partitions was put on hold when the ironwork did not arrive.
W.J. Thomas, assistant superintendent, spent a couple of weeks visiting Minnesota prisons to learn how they operated and how prisoners were handled.
On Aug. 31, the first prisoners arrived on the Chicago & Northwestern noon train.
Three officers accompanied eight prisoners from the state prison at Waupun.
They were met by Thomas and put on a bus.
The prisoners, ages 19-20, were dressed in a gray uniform with a red stripe running down the sleeve and leg.
The following day, the inmates were put to work for 10 hours a day cleaning the facility.
Their transfer was a portion of 24-35 men set to arrive from Waupun to work on the facility.
The next group of eight prisoners arrived on Sept. 6, and the final eight arrived on Sept. 12.
Two days later, prison staff experienced their first escape.
The two 16-year-old inmates, who had just been transported from Waupun, made their escape while working as waiters in the officers’ dining room.
Around 7 p.m., they exited through an open window in the dining room wearing their waiter uniforms after the officers had finished dining.
One of the teens was from Green Bay and the other from Chicago – both convicted of burglary.
The escape was followed by a large brush fire on the grounds days later that was started to burn trash.
A week later, officials were still searching for the escapees, with a $25 each reward offered for the capture of the youth.
On Sept. 21, a third prisoner made their escape in broad daylight, while putting a sidewalk in on the grounds.
While the guard was districted giving instructions to three others, the young man made his way to the surrounding fields and woods.
He was just 200 feet away when the guard fired six times, missing the prisoner all six times.
Prison staff tracked the escaped inmate, but could not locate him.
By early October, work on the reformatory had reached the fourth floor and steam pipes were being installed – work that would need to be completed before the ground froze.
To be continued