You Won’t Believe How Well Maine State Prisoners Ate In The 1930s
If you ask most people about how prisoners in Maine are treated today, we bet most would say they are treated very well. And, fed very well. In most cases, their dietary restrictions (religious, allergies, etc) are honored.
However, most people would probably have a completely different opinion if you asked them about the treatment of Maine prisoners in the 1930s. You probably picture the prisoners spending 23+ hours locked in cold, damp, cells. And, you probably imagine them eating almost nothing but bread and water. Right?
Apparently, that opinion would be wrong.
According to the annual Maine Prison System report found on the Hathi Trust website, for the year ending June 30th, 1936, the prisoners actually ate really well. They ate even better than some of us do today.
For example, an average breakfast would include oatmeal, pancakes, bread, butter, and coffee. A typical lunch would consist of roast beef, potatoes, cabbage, bread, butter, and pudding. Supper (dinner) would be a lighter meal consisting of something like fried potatoes, vegetables, bread, and butter.
Of course, one of the reasons that they were doing so well was the fact that most, if not all, of the inmates were doing physical labor. Based on the report, they worked as woodworkers, upholsterers, farmers, and even made license plates. Apparently, that was not just something from the movies.
In total, the prison system brought in just under $70,000 between 1935 / 1936. That would be worth about $1,500,000 in today's (2023) money!
If you are a Maine history geek, you are going to love digging into this report. In addition to breaking down inmate menus and how much money the prison system brought in, the report goes over the average age of the inmates, the length of their sentences, the crimes they committed, and the careers they had on the outside. It also details medical issues they had.
You can check out the entire report HERE