Mansfield Reformatory was built in (by - the building began some years earlier when the cornerstone was laid in 1886) 1896. It is a large set of buildings containing 2 main wings - east and west. The west wing is the older wing and contains 3 ranges. The cells are larger and the walls thicker. The east block was built in 1910 and contains 5 ranges, OR was built in 1908 and is 6 ranges high - depending on whether you believe the 1934 book which was produced by the current Superintendent or the volunteers now working at the reformatory. The stats are all over. The east block has much smaller cells and was originally built to have one man per cell, however population increase demanded 2 men per cell by 1934, housing approximately 1212 inmates.
When you see these cells you really get a feel for how hard it must have been for the prisoners, who were often locked in their cells for long periods of time. As versions of how long differ greatly I won't go into that. The size of the cell can't be felt in the pictures, but the bunks are single size with a 4 inch pad. There is approximately 3 feet to the walking side of the bunk, in which corner is the toilet, and in the other corner is a sink where there is just enough room to stand between it and the bunk. Each cell had a small "mirror" made of polished metal, and a small cabinet - most of which have been demolished. The layers of paint literally drips from the ceilings, walls and bars. The colours are beautiful and numerous, ranging from cream to pink to brown to dark blue.
The Volunteers from MRPS were wonderful, much to my surprise, not that I was expecting shoddy work, but when you go over the regulations for attending an overnight, it is very strict and it's a bit unnerving. I was really pleased and impressed with the efficiency, friendliness and knowledge of the people who showed us around at the beginning of the night. They foresee problems which may arise and they take the task in hand in a really expedient and friendly fashion. Impressive. Our tour was a good length of time and our tour guide was a very entertaining speaker, rather than thinking "Let's get ON with it!" I just enjoyed the ride. She was very open and she and her cohort were very open concerning their own experiences and with what others had shared. We all enjoyed ourselves and we can't wait to go back - taking more friends so they can experience this amazing building too.
More in the next installment, I think I'm about to get a storm.