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Brief Historical Timeline of the “Prison Farm” Land – Part 2

Brief Historical Timeline of the “Prison Farm” Land – Part 2

By Lily Ponitz. For further information watch her presentation “Deep Dive: Atlanta City Prison Farm From the Archaic to Now”

Originally published on ATL Press Collective.

Note: This is a working document with information added to it as more history is uncovered.


Introduction:

  • Run as a city prison farm uninterrupted from 19221 to somewhere around 19902.
  • Often erroneously referred to as the “Honor Farm” (honor farm is actually federal penitentiary #2). Any report that refers to it as the “Honor Farm” will be incorrect and have conflicting combined information from 2-3 different prison farms.3
  • Multiple documented counts of rape, beatings, overcrowding, “slave conditions,” lack of healthcare, various strikes, and deaths (disproportionately Black victims).4

1800s – 1920s

  • 1827- George W. Key acquires land (that would become the Prison Farm) via land lottery
Name:George Key
County:Muscogee
Captain’s District:Bells
Number:215
District:17
Lottery Date:1827
Source:REPRINT of OFFICIAL REGISTER of LAND LOTTERY OF GEORGIA 1827; 19th DAY’S DRAWING-March 28.ELBERT. page 56
  • 1911- City purchases the land from William Bibb Key, son of George W. Key.5
  • 1917- City purchases established dairy and farm “Maddox farm” (who had been renting the land from the City).6
  • Municipal dairy established by Atlanta city council.7
  • 1918- Superintendent of prisons T.B. Lanford inexplicably put in control of the municipal dairy farm, by the finance committee, removing City Bacteriologist Claude Smith.8
    • Lanford was investigated for whipping incarcerated women while they were tied to the “bucking chair” causing city council to to pass a law banning whipping to be replaced with solitary confinement.9
  • 1920- The Atlanta stockade (located at 760 Glenwood Ave, today an apartment complex) is overcrowded, a suggestion to move it to the city municipal dairy farm is proposed.10
  • 1922-It was illegal to build prison facilities outside of city limits, city council passes a bill making it legal to build city prison facilities outside of the city/county.11
  • 1922- Key Road municipal dairy farm became the Atlanta City Prison and Dairy Farm, later simplified to the Atlanta City Prison Farm.
    • Originally suggested as a place to put all female city prisoners.12
    • Unclear when male prisoners started being sent there a 1936 article states “The prison farm where all female prisoners are sent, as well as white male prisoners…”13

1930s

  • 1933- Maude (zoo elephant) buried at Prison Farm.14
  • 1938- New wing completed at the prison farm houses 75 persons. Another addition – is expected to be the same size.15
  • 1938- H.H, Gibson is elected general manager of the Atlanta Prison Farm
    • This move comes after an investigating committee ”had termed conditions at the city prison “an ungodly mess”.16
  • 1939- City council proposes extending the farm by 184 acres on Constitution Ave. to Boulder Crest Dr. Residents of DeKalb county’s Mills District emphatically opposed the proposal due to racism aka- proximity of Black incarcerated men to their (white) school and predominantly white neighborhood.17
    • A compromise was presented to buy only 134 acres and leave a 50-acre stretch as a buffer between the farm boundary and the school.18

1940s

  • 1940- Construction of a new prison building. “Additions will provide facilities for about 600 prisoners in the main wings and the old white men’s prions quarters will be converted in a hospital ward with disabled prisoners quartere in the present white and negro women’s wings.”19
  • 1940- For over a year superintendent Gibson has been “rewarding ‘workers’ and those with exemplary conduct with days off their sentences” with farmworkers (both men and women) receiving extra credit for each hour of overtime worked.20
  • 1940- Work halted on prison expansion due to no permit being issued for work under a 1938 law which requires that building permits must be obtained for all construction in DeKalb county, and the prison farm being too close to the (white) DeKalb school.21
  • 1941- DeKalb county residents obtain an injunction against the city for dumping untreated sewage (from the prison farm) into Intrenchment creek causing work on the new building to be abandoned.22
  • 1941- Fulton county grand jury opposes proposal to abandon new partially built building stating “this prison farm is a fundamental necessity from humane as well as an economic standpoint “.23
  • New building (that had been halted) is opened “can house 725 prisoners without crowding them”.24
    • One of the older prison buildings (abandoned for new building) is converted into the first city hospital for people with venereal diseases.2526
  • 1944- Prison farm expanded by renting 88 adjoining acres.27
  • 1946- Prison farm expanded, City purchases 89 adjoining acres.28 (unclear if this is the land that was being rented in 1944)
  • 1947 Prison is racially integrated (both men and women).29

1950s

  • 1950- Coco (zoo elephant) buried at the Prison Farm.30
  • 1952- “cost of living raise” for prison labor from 50¢ to $1.00 a day.31
  • 1952- Sentences are reduced to alleviate overcrowding e.g. 10 days instead of 20 days for drunkenness.32
  • 1957- In an attempt to curb a flu epidemic, Judge Arnold orders Superintendent H. H. Gibson to turn the prisoners loose, and then sterilize the prison.33
    • Only those with “light infractions”, “older men”, and those with tuberculosis were released, with the stipulation they had a home to go back to.34
  • Investigation is agreed to by the chairman of the Aldermanic Board’s Prison committee to investigate charges for “guards directly abusing their authority over Negro women inmates”, “alleged discrimination in work assignments” “alleged lack of adequate supervision”.35 (Unclear on conclusion of investigation)
    • The Prison Farm has been “under the observation of the Negro community for some time because…alleged brutality, poor treatment of prisoners and molesting of women inmates.36 (Unclear on outcome of investigation)
  • 1958- Grand jury recommends the city of Atlanta expand to address overcrowding, properly staff prison medical facilities, and have medicine dispensed by a doctor or a registered nurse.3738
    • A second grand jury that year finds fault with the Prison Farm medical facility.39
  • 1958- Flash fire burns down a warehouse and damages a prison guard house along with an additional warehouse.40 (No mention of those incarcerated being injured)
  • 1958- “Better medical and fire protection facilities have been provided.” “Nevertheless, there is still room for improvements, especially in the rehabilitation of alcoholics”41

1960s

  • 1960- Fulton county grand jury finds Prison Farm “exceedingly overcrowded”.42
    • Grand jury suggests building a “work camp” to alleviate crowding.
    • Finds restrooms and kitchen “in a deplorable state”.
  • Willie-B the first (zoo gorilla) buried at Prison Farm.43
  • 1965- AJC reporter Dick Herbert goes undercover by pretending to be drunk to get arrested and sentenced to the prison farm to report on conditions at the Prison Farm.44
    • These reports draw public attention and Superintendent Hulsey addresses concerns through a “get tough” policy to curtail contraband sales and smuggling, as well as propaganda on why the solitary confinement cell known as “the hole” is “necessary”, and various ways to address overcrowding.45
  • 1967- A January federal court order requires desegregation of entire facility.46 (Unclear as to when it was re-segregated from 1947)
  • 1967- Stokely Carmichael arrested/convicted of loitering and held at the Prison Farm (released on the same day).47
  • 1968- From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral parade- “After a funeral service at his own Ebenezer Baptist church, the draped coffin was placed on a farm wagon drawn by two mules from the Atlanta city prison farm”.48

1970s

  • 1973- Captain J.D. Hudson first Black man to be appointed head of the Prison Farm.49
  • 1977- Lawsuit against the City over the death from an incarcerated person at the farm from pesticide two years earlier.50
  • 1973 vegetables are no longer grown at the farm.51

1980s-1990s

  • 1982- Pork and beef is still being raised, comprising 42% of meat eaten by prisoners at the farm and the city jail.52
  • 1982-1983 Uniform Alcoholism Treatment Act (UATA) passed by the 1974 General Assembly effectively decriminalizing public drunkenness, prison population more than halves.5354
  • 1985- City officials have agree to pay $19,500 in legal fees and a $4,500 settlement to three former Atlanta Prison farm inmates represented by the ACLU who filed legal complaints about conditions there.55
  • 1987- The City was in the process of awarding a contract for 20 solitary confinement cells, however the firm was found to be attempting to win contracts for minority company by creating minority front.56
  • 1989- Farm production accounts for only 20% of prisoner food.57
  • 1990- Farm animals and equipment are auctioned off. Citing “Not enough inmates are skilled at slaughtering and butchering” with those who worked the farm program “reassigned to other jobs like housekeeping and janitorial work.”58
  • 1990- AJC article Mentions APD training facility in trailers at a condemned site on Key Rd. It is unclear where APD’s training facility was beforehand – more research is needed.59
  • 1991- A public notice is issued to discuss the future plans for the Key Road Prison Farm Property (and the City of Atlanta solid waste disposal).60
    • Two more of the same public notices are issued this year.6162
  • 1995 – Atlanta City Detention Center is opened in preparation for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
  • 1996- Mayor Bill Campbell rejects idea that the Prison Farm be used as housing for houseless people, stating “There’s already enough housing available”.63

2000s-Present

  • 2002- Possibility that the Prison Farm be turned into a public park.64
  • 2017- Earliest found depiction of cop city proposal at the Prison Farm.65
  • 2021- Ordinance 21-O-0367, (allowing the City to lease the land to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) so the APF can build cop city) introduced by Joyce Sheperd on 6/7/2166
    • 21-O-0367 adopted 9/7/2167

Special thanks to: Lily Ponitz, Victoria Lemos, Morna Gerrard, & Serena McCracken

Footnotes:

  1. Prison Committee To Meet Today. (1922, November 11). The Atlanta Constitution.
  2. Prison farm, stock to be sold (1990, August 25) Alma E. Hill, The Atlanta Constitution.
  3. https://twitter.com/atlantapress/status/1426705987189215232?s=20&t=AdHG4Axqm85MQoVtTY1Qnw
  4. https://atlpresscollective.com/2021/08/14/history-of-the-atlanta-city-prison-farm/
  5. Historical Maps (1915) DeKalb History Center Archives.
  6. Bacteriologist Says Men Might Be Named on Dairy Committee Who Would Use Office for Personal Gain (1917, July 7)The Atlanta Constitution.
  7. Municipal Dairy Loses $14,000 Since Start (1918, February 27) The Atlanta Constitution.
  8. Provision Is Made For New Schools. (1918, June 1). The Atlanta Constitution.
  9. https://atlpresscollective.com/2021/08/14/history-of-the-atlanta-city-prison-farm/
  10. Removal Planned of City Stockade. (1920, April 7). The Atlanta Constitution.
  11. Prison Committee To Meet Today. (1922, November 11). The Atlanta Constitution.
  12. Removal Planned of City Stockade. (1920, April 7). The Atlanta Constitution.
  13. Report Atlanta Police Dept. (1936, May 2) The Atlanta Constitution.
  14. New Queen Coco, In First Interview Urges Increase in Peanut-Growing. (19933, October 26) The Atlanta Constitution.
  15. New wing is finished on Atlanta Penal Farm Building. (1938, January 1) The Atlanta Constitution.
  16. Reform is voted for city prison, probation work, H.H, Gibson is Elected General Manager of Atlanta. (1938, August 2) The Atlanta Constitution.
  17. County Residents Protest Prison’s Farm Expansion. (1939, November 14) The Atlanta Constitution.
  18. Officials To Study Revision Of CIty Prension Set-up (1939, November 21) The Atlanta Constitution.
  19. No title (1940, February 28) The Atlanta Constitution.
  20. Prison farm’s “time off” plan is getting results, Gibson says (1940, April 1) The Atlanta Constitution.
  21. Work on new prison project halted by court. (1940, November 24) The Atlanta Constitution.
  22. Group to urge protection of new building, $25,000 investment in unfinished prison structure. (1941, June 22) The Atlanta Constitution.
  23. Grand jury asks retention of prison farm. Abandonment proposal, erection of building vigorously met. (1941, July 1) The Atlanta Constitution.
  24. New venereal hospital to open today. (1944, October 19). The Atlanta Constitution.
  25. New venereal hospital to open today. (1944, October 19). The Atlanta Constitution.
  26. VD Hospital Opened. (1944, October 19) The Atlanta Constitution.
  27. Barter system replaces cash at prison farm. (1944, May 2) The Atlanta Constitution
  28. City Must Expand. (1946, January 8) The Atlanta Constitution.
  29. City Prison Superintendent Defends One-roof Barracks. (1947, June 12) The Atlanta Constitution.
  30. The body of Coco the elephant lifted by a tow truck for burial at the Atlanta Prison Farm (1950, March) Photo by Marion Johnson/Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.
  31. Prisoners Get Cost of Living Hike at Farm. (1952, May 14) The Atlanta Constitution.
  32. Prisoners Get Cost of Living Hike at Farm. (1952, May 14) The Atlanta Constitution.
  33. State Lists 1,000 Asian Flu Cases; City Frees Prisoners in Outbreak. (1957, October 17) The Atlanta Constitution.
  34. Prisoners Freed By Flu Outbreak. (1957, October 17) The Dothan Eagle.
  35. Investigation of City Prison Farm Promised. (1958, September 4) Atlanta Daily World.
  36. Investigation of City Prison Farm Promised. (1958, September 4) Atlanta Daily World.
  37. Prison Farm Hit By DeKalb Jury. (1958, February 26) The Atlanta Constitution.
  38. Medical Care at Atlanta Prison Farm Assailed Anew by DeKalb Grand Jury. (1958, November 25) The Atlanta Constitution.
  39. DeKalb Jury Findings Merit Careful Attention. (1958, November 26) The Atlanta Constitution.
  40. Flash Fire Hits Prison Farm Here. (1958, November 27) The Atlanta Constitution.
  41. Step in Right direction Taken at Prison Farm) (1958, December 24) The Atlanta Constitution.
  42. Jury Raps Prison Crowding. (1960, October 29) The Atlanta Constitution.
  43. Willie B. Celebrates 25 Years in Atlanta. (1986, May 16) The Atlanta Constitution.
  44. How the “hopeless” can be helped. (1965, October 16) The Atlanta Constitution.
  45. City Prison’s a much better place these days. (1965, December 9) The Atlanta Constitution.
  46. No country Club – Just A Better City Prison. (1967, February 27) The Atlanta Constitution.
  47. Carmichael Freed From Atlanta Jail. (1967, June 25) The Times (Shreveport, LA).
  48. Rites of Poverty for Dr. King. (1968, April 9) The Kansas City Star
  49. Alderman Dodson’s Record of Progress and Dedication. (1973, September 1) The Atlanta voice.
  50. Prison Death Brings Lawsuit Against City. (1977, July 26) The Atlanta Constitution.
  51. ‘Slave labor’ gone at the prison farm, but inmates still tend cattle, hogs. (1982, December 22) The Atlanta Constitution.
  52. ‘Slave labor’ gone at the prison farm, but inmates still tend cattle, hogs. (1982, December 22) The Atlanta Constitution.
  53. A Last Chance. (1982, October 23) The Atlanta Constitution.
  54. Georgia Program for Treating Public Drunks a Success. (1983, February 19) The Atlanta Constitution.
  55. City agrees to $4,500 settlement with former Prison Farm inmates. (1985, May 31) The Atlanta Constitution
  56. Contracts. (1987, May 3) The Atlanta Constitution.
  57. Prison Farm, Stock to be Sold. (1990, August 25) The Atlanta Constitution.
  58. Prison Farm, Stock to be Sold. (1990, August 25)The Atlanta Constitution.
  59. Helping City Police Force Shape Up. (1990, November 29)The Atlanta Constitution.
  60. Public Notice (1991, June 29) The Atlanta Constitution.
  61. Public Notice (1991, September 14) The Atlanta Constitution.
  62. Public Notice (1991, July 6) The Atlanta Constitution.
  63. City of Atlanta Why Prison Farm? (1996, November 23) The Atlanta Constitution.
  64. Historic Prison Farm Could Rebloom As Park. (2002, December 23) The Atlanta Constitution.
  65. https:// atlantapolicefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/VISION-SAFE-ATL-Infrastructure.pdf
  66. http://atlantacityga.iqm2.com/Citizens/DetailLegiFile.aspx?Frame=SplitView&MeetingID=3468&MediaPosition=0.000&ID=24221&CssClass=
  67. http://atlantacityga.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=SplitView&MeetingID=3468&MediaPosition=0.000&ID=24221&CssClass=




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