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The conclusion is inescapable that the appearance bonds
A frequent charge by persons arrested in mass demonstrations was that they were subjected to primitive and, in some cases, inhuman jail conditions. The Commission did not investigate jail conditions at the time that demonstrators were incarcerated. However, judicial inquiries and other reliable reports indicate that in a number of cases the allegations were of substance.104
Americus, Georgia.–Following the arrests in Americus, most of the demonstrators were jailed temporarily in an abandoned office building and later transferred to jail facilities in neighboring counties. The complaints about all facilities were similar. Since the jails were mostly abandoned buildings, they had little or no functional plumbing.
105 One building had to be fumigated by the prisoners,106 and in another there were not enough beds and no mattresses. 107 Prisoners were not permitted outside; one group was confined in a barracks for 38 days during August and September. 108
After a girl escaped from one jail, 26 girls were
103 Johnson v. Davis, supra at 816.
Mistreatment of Negro prisoners arrested in Selma, Ala., for example, was reported by the federal court:
"This harassment, intimidation and brutal treatment [by local law enforcement officials] has ranged from mass arrests without just cause to forced marches for several miles into the countryside, with the sheriff's deputies and members of his posse herding the Negro demonstrators at a rapid pace through the use of electrical shocking devices (designed for use on cattle) and night sticks to prod them along.” Williams v. Wallace, 240 F. Supp. 100, 104 (M.D. Ala. 1965).
Americus City Interview; interviews with demonstrators; Aelony Record 329, 330. 108 Interviews with demonstrators. Interviews with demonstrators; Aelony Record 329. Ibid.
crowded into a dark punishment cell large enough for 12. At all of the jails the prisoners were served four hamburgers once a day and no other food.110 City officials admitted that jail conditions were below standard due to the absence of facilities to handle the large number of persons arrested. They did not dispute the existence of unsanitary conditions but alleged that they were the fault of the prisoners.
St. Augustine, Florida.-Federal Judge Simpson described Sheriff Davis' custodial procedures for demonstrators in St. Augustine:
[He forced the demonstrators] outside their cells to
The use of this compound, in Florida's 90-degree-plus
Further punishment devised by the Sheriff was the crowding of 9 or 10 male plaintiffs together overnight into concrete “sweatboxes," 7' x 8'. The females, 21 in number, on the other hand, were forced on one occasion for an hour and 18 minutes into a circular
Interviews with demonstrators.
padded cell 10' in diameter. This
included one polio victim, Mrs. Georgia B. Reed, on crutches and unable to stand without them.
Both the sweatboxes and the padded cell were so small that the occupants had to sit or lie down in relays. These latter practices were imposed as punishment for singing religious songs or praying in the jail. As to the use of the compound, the good Sheriff said further that this was to make the Plaintiffs tired and ready for sleep
at nightfall, to discourage singing in advance. 112 Judge Simpson concluded his findings of fact: “More than cruel and unusual punishment is shown. Here is exposed, in its raw ugliness, studied and cynical brutality, deliberately contrived to break men, physically and mentally.'
TRIAL AND SENTENCING
When trials of civil rights demonstrators were finally held, in some cities only after extended delays,14 they generally resulted in convictions and the imposition of harsh sentences.
Americus, Georgia.-In Americus, trials of many of the demonstrators were postponed by the city recorder, the man responsible for hearing cases involving violations of city ordinances. During the height of the demonstrations, the recorder suspended court in order to attend summer military camp. Recorder's Court, which normally meets once a week,115 did not convene for four weeks.116 When the recorder returned, trials of demonstrators were held weekly and demonstrators were tried in order of arrest. As a consequence of this delay, and difficulty in obtaining bail,11? more than a hundred demonstrators were incarcerated for periods up to six weeks while awaiting trial for misdemeanors.118 Most of them were local teenagers. .
113 Johnson v. Davis, supra note 96, at 817.
14 The Federal Constitution and the constitutions of forty-six States provide, in some manner, that a defendant is entitled to a speedy trial. In New York and Nevada prompt trials are assured by statute. In most States, statutes set forth the maximum period prior to trial. Paulsen & Kadish, Criminal Law and Its Processes 990 (1962).
11 Prior to suspending court, the Recorder refused to hear cases more often than once a week. He justified this position on the grounds that those arrested intended to violate the conditions of their probation and bail was available to all demonstrators as soon as they were booked by police. Interview with R. L. Lesueur, City Recorder, Aug. 12, 1964 (hereinafter cited as LeSueur Interview).
All the Americus demonstrators were convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty-$100 or 60 days labor on the streets. The recorder justified these sentences by stating that he had observed the violence that developed out of similar racial demonstrations in Albany, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama. When he sentenced demonstrators in Americus, he said, he “looked beyond what they had been doing” in order to discourage further demonstrations.119
Jackson, Mississippi.-Most demonstrators in Jackson were convicted of either a misdemeanor under State law or violation of city ordinances. In both instances, maximum penalties were imposed. The sentence for a misdemeanor was $500 and six months;120 for ordinance violation, $100 and 30 days.121 Jail sentences were suspended on pleas of nolo contendere. These sentences were substantially greater than the sentences imposed for comparable offenses which did not involve civil rights.123
116 The City Charter provides that the mayor is to act as recorder in the absence of the elected recorder. The
mayor, however, refused to serve; nor would he appoint an acting recorder or lower the bail or release the demonstrators on their own recognizance. Lesueur Interview; Americus City Interview.
See discussion pp. 72–73, supra.
City of Americus v. Turner, et al. Nos. 848–65, Recorder's Ct., September 3, 1963.
119 LèSueur Interview. In non-civil rights cases in Americus, violators of city ordinances, in almost every instance, were given less than the maximum sentence. Memorandum in Commission files, summarizing study of Recorder's Docket.
Jackson Attorney Interview.
Miss. Code $ 3374-137 (1956). Under a 1964 amendment to this section, the maximum punishment for violation of municipal ordinances was increased to 90 days and a $300 fine. 12 Jackson Attorney Interview.
For example, the Jackson arrest docket from April 1, 1964, to June 1, 1964, shows 32 convictions for disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct. In 28 of the cases, the
Greenwood, Mississippi.-Demonstrators arrested in Greenwood in 1963 were usually sentenced to four months and $200, either for breach of the peace or disorderly conduct.124 These sentences were substantially greater than those imposed in non-civil rights cases. In Leflore County during the preceding year, there had been 19 convictions for disorderly conduct. In these cases, the average fine was $7.37 and only two defendants were jailed. The average fine during the same period in non-civil rights breach of the peace cases was $6.66.125
Civil rights workers, who were known to the Greenwood officials, were subjected to repeated arrests for minor infractions of the law, followed by harsh and discriminatory fines and sentences. In February 1963, Samuel Block, the leader of the civil rights movement in Greenwood, was arrested for "uttering a public statement calculated to cause a breach of the peace.” Block had stated to the press that a fire which had destroyed a Negro garage in Greenwood was the result of a mistaken attempt to burn the civil rights office. He was convicted, sentenced to six months in jail, and given a $500 fine. Neither the judge who sentenced him nor the city prosecuting attorney could recall another prosecution based on the utterance of a public statement.12
In November 1963, three whites and two Negroes were arrested while collecting ballots in a mock election conducted by civil rights groups. They were charged with blocking the sidewalk, convicted, and fined $100 each. The fines of the two Negroes, both 16 years old, were suspended on two years' good behavior. 127
In the seven years preceding these convictions four persons unconnected with civil rights activity were found guilty of blocking
sentences were $25 or less. In the remaining four cases, all of which involved civil rights demonstrators, the sentence was $500 and six months in jail. Jackson Police Arrest Docket 1964. A similar pattern appeared with respect to convictions for trespass.
Staff investigation report on fines and sentences imposed by local courts in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963-64 [hereinafter cited as Greenwood Sentence Report] T. 485-90.
Id. at 487. 126 Interview with Judge 0. L. Limbrough, Greenwood city judge, and Gray Evans, city prosecutor, May 20, 1964.