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DancingMaenid
05-31-2015, 08:55 AM
I've come up with a scenario that I'm having a hard time researching, and I was wondering if anyone on here has any insight.

One of my WIPs involves the following scenario. This is backstory, so it's not the main focus of the novel, but it does play a major role in the story and the conflict between the main characters.

The backstory is set in roughly 1976, in the southern U.S. (I'm thinking Georgia, but this is flexible for my purposes). Character #1, Charles, is married to Character #2, Amanda. Charles cheats on Amanda with Nadine, who's considerably younger (possibly underage, though whether she's 17 or 18-19 is flexible). Nadine is evil, and one night she comes to the house and brutally kills Amanda. Charles doesn't actually have anything to do with it, but he appears guilty. From here, I see two possible scenarios:

1. Charles and Nadine are both charged and convicted of the murder.

2. Nadine is either never charged or isn't convicted. Charles alone is convicted of the crime.

Either way, the important thing for my plot is that Charles ends up in prison but is not in such a restrictive environment that he can't interact a lot with other inmates, guards, etc. (it's important that he has a fair amount of interaction with others while in prison). My trouble is finding resources about what prisons in the South would have been like during that time period, what type of sentence Charles would have likely received, and whether receiving a death sentence vs. life in prison would have made a big difference in what his life in prison would have been like. Again, some of the details are flexible, so if I need to have things happen a certain way in order to make my desired outcome plausible, I can do that. It's just a matter of figuring out what would have been plausible for the time. Also, would he have been likely to have a cellmate or not?

If anyone knows anything about this, or can suggest resources, it'd be helpful! Some of this, I can afford to be vague on, but since it's become a fairly important piece of my novel, I feel I need to do a little more research.

jclarkdawe
05-31-2015, 03:53 PM
1972 - 1976 the death penalty was suspended in the US.

If you're sentenced to death, you go to death row as soon as you arrive in prison. Death penalty inmates usually are in only one prison in the state's system. Death row is severely restricted on interaction. These are the inmates that have nothing to lose.


Murder inmates start out with severe restrictions until they can show they might be safe in a less restrictive environment. This is going to take several years, at least. Most likely he would not start out with a cellmate.

However, not many people understand or know prison classification. Initially he'd go into the intake area of the prison. Present that he does good there (usually lasts 1 - 3 months), gets a lot of sympathy from the guards, saves another inmate from a beating, yet doesn't rat anyone out, and you'd have a reason for him to be placed in a less restrictive environment.

Best of luck

Jim Clark-Dawe

ironmikezero
05-31-2015, 11:08 PM
To expand a bit upon what Jim said . . . Assuming your character is serving a sentence of 25-life (or something roughly equivalent), and has been deemed a minimum potential threat, he could be placed in General Population (GP) relatively quickly. Prisons tend to be overcrowded, and were so in the '70s as well. Detention facilities are designed to hold a predetermined number of inmates. Actual numbers of detainees rather quickly exceeded design parameters, thanks in large part to the proliferation of narcotics related crimes. Facility managers were always looking for creative ways to house more prisoners; more bunks & mattresses could more easily be introduced into large dorms (more efficient than cramming extra mattresses into individual cells--not that it didn't happen). Sometimes state prisons had to contract space in county jails, much like the federal government did/does. Bedspace was/is the common term used in contracting inmate housing.

Your character might spend some time in isolation (Administrative Segregation - Ad-Seg) pending evaluation, but absent a precluding reason, he'd be placed in GP fairly soon.

T Robinson
06-01-2015, 01:08 AM
Interaction will not be a problem, as long as he is not on death row. When I worked in a prison, the ones convicted of murder were usually the best behaved and wandered pretty much anywhere in the compound they wanted to with the rest of GP (general population). When I first started, I was amazed. I "assumed" they were locked in their cells most of the time. Not even close.

Inmates have their own networks. You can slow them down, but you can never stop them.

Here is the link to Jackson, better known as Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison (GDCP) That is where anyone sentenced goes first, then they get assigned somewhere else. Somewhere on the public site is a virtual tour of the inside.

http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/GDC/FacilityMap/html/S_50000269.html

rohstod
06-01-2015, 04:20 AM
Keep him off of death row:

1) Have the judge or jury sentence to life in prison rather than death.
2) Have him accept a plea deal to avoid the death penalty. Even though he's innocent, he might be afraid to go to trial (where he could get death). This is especially true if things look really bad for him.
3) A lot of states will have a laundry list of what constitutes a capital murder. Move him to one of these states and then just write it so that he didn’t commit a capital murder there.


It’s hard to say what a prison is going to look like exactly. Generally speaking, I can tell you that corrections were undergoing radical revision during the 70s. A lot of institutions went to a deterrence or incapacitation model (though, to be fair, that’s most likely what they were doing beforehand and simply called it rehabilitation). This means you’d probably see a population boom in prison, more restrictive sanctions, and fewer treatment programs.

It might be worth it to schedule an interview with a local historian or even search for inmates who were in prison during this time and ask them about the conditions. I had a friend who used a site like craigslist to find people who were willing to talk about their experiences during war. Just do most of the exchanges through email or over the phone to keep yourself safe. You might also be able to find old lawsuits that would detail some of the conditions; the 60s and 70s saw a lot of cases regarding prisoner treatment.

WeaselFire
06-02-2015, 06:05 PM
Some prisons in the south in that era still had prison farms and chain gangs and it's possible, depending on the conviction and sentencing, he could be working with other prisoners. There are lesser charges he could plead to or the prosecutor could charge him with if felony murder wasn't a slam dunk. You need to choose what works for your story.

Jeff

ironmikezero
06-02-2015, 10:17 PM
Some prisons in the south in that era still had prison farms and chain gangs . . . Jeff

Jeff is right. In fact, many prisons (especially in the South) still have working farms and work gangs. Even now, the Mississippi and Red Rivers are in flood stage; inmate work gangs in the region have been pressed into sandbag service.

https://www.google.com/search?q=inmates+%2B+sandbags&client=ubuntu&channel=fs&biw=1375&bih=803&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=gfFtVbuNG4yhNrSUg7AJ&ved=0CDYQsAQ

DancingMaenid
06-03-2015, 10:17 AM
Thank you so much for the input! My primary concern has been making sure a life sentence could be realistic, since I wasn't confident how murder cases were treated back then (and the murder in question was very violent and disturbing, so it's not the type of thing where a jury would be likely to sympathize with the defendant). But it sounds like that can work for my purposes.


1972 - 1976 the death penalty was suspended in the US.

Ooh, that is very relevant to my interests. Thank you! I think I'd known that but forgot. I can make sure he was convicted within that time frame.


However, not many people understand or know prison classification. Initially he'd go into the intake area of the prison. Present that he does good there (usually lasts 1 - 3 months), gets a lot of sympathy from the guards, saves another inmate from a beating, yet doesn't rat anyone out, and you'd have a reason for him to be placed in a less restrictive environment.

That was part of my plan. He does eventually gain a fairly trustworthy reputation in prison.


Some prisons in the south in that era still had prison farms and chain gangs and it's possible, depending on the conviction and sentencing, he could be working with other prisoners. There are lesser charges he could plead to or the prosecutor could charge him with if felony murder wasn't a slam dunk. You need to choose what works for your story.

I was thinking that if Nadine was convicted as well, that could mitigate Charles' case somewhat, if it were generally accepted that he wasn't literally the one who did the killing (but it was believed that he was involved). Also, it could work well for my story if Nadine were still in prison in the early 2000's.

Really, all I need for the story is that 1) he was convicted in the 70's, 2) he developed a reputation for his toughness, his "odd" beliefs about reincarnation, and his apparent healing powers, and 3) he killed himself in prison after about ten years, after giving a fellow inmate instructions to safeguard some of his belongings.

I don't want to overthink it too much, but whenever dealing with historical stuff like this, I worry about accidentally messing up a major detail.