Jail Time Undercover

Bly gets herself arrested to experience life for a woman in jail.

Media History

The reporting was intended for these media types: Magazine, Newspaper, Book, Television

"Campus Favorite Is Incarcerated Spends Time in the County Jail But! Lo! It Was For Science Sake" - Elsie McCormick - The Oakland Tribune

Miss Elsie McCormick, University Girl, Who Went to Jail to Gain Experience For Sociological Work


Miss Elsie McCormick, one of the most prominent girls graduating with last year's University of California class, has been in jail. Far from being shunned for that fact by her campus acquaintances to whom she has returned for graduate work, Miss McCormick is being roundly praised for her ingenuity and pluck. For it was in pursuance of her sociological studies that the young graduate not only got herself arrested in San Francisco, but spent many days in the city and county bastille, studying prison conditions in general, and women prisoners in particular. For the period of her incarceration her daily companions were two counterfeiters, an embezzler, a perjurer and a lady burglar.

"My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard" - Shane Bauer - Mother Jones


 "As a journalist, it's nearly impossible to get an unconstrained look inside our penal system. When prisons do let reporters in, it's usually for carefully managed tours and monitored interviews with inmates. Private prisons are especially secretive. Their records often aren't subject to public access laws; CCA has fought to defeat legislation that would make private prisons subject to the same disclosure rules as their pubic counterparts. And even if I could get uncensored information from private prison inmates, how would I verify their claims? I keep coming back to this question: Is there any other way to see what really happens inside a private prison?" 

"Life in the Ludlow Street Jail" - Unsigned - New York Tribune

A Voluntary Incarceration. Warden Tracey's Hotel. A Public Prison Run as a Private Boarding-House. Mr. Tracey's Menu. Money the Key to the Cell Door. Imprisonment for Debt. Innocent Men in Prison. Malice as a Jailer. The Squeezing System. The Miseries of Detained Witnesses. The Agonies of Confinement.


 "Mr. ____, I have determined to send you to prison," smoke like a knell on my ear. Little Tommy, the office boy, could have knocked me down with a feater; the more stalwart Johnny Weinheimer could, at that moment, ahve rendered my children fatherless and my wife a widow with an ease which woudl have utterly astonished him. . . . 'The face is, Mr. _____, I have reason to suspect that there is something rotten in Mr. Warden Tracey's state of Denmark . . .."

"Maggie Martin, 933" - Madeleine Zabriskie Doty - The Century

A Woman's Voluntary Week in Prison


 "...Then came the bath, taken in public, with the aid of the little colored convict. Under direction, she scrubbed andscsrubbed,w e being told to keep hands off. Some one originated the theory that all convicts are dirty,a nd truly it is on that theory that the whole prison system is built. A convict means dirt, physical, mental and moral and is treated accordingly That this may not be the case makes no impression. I was a convict; therefore, I was full of vermin..."

"Life at Sing Sing" - Henry Guy Carleton - New York World

Behind the Bars in the State's Great Prison; Detailed Story of the Inside Workings of the Institution; The Dark Cell Described and the Weighing Machine Pictured; Some of the Once Prominent Men Who Are Temporarily Sojourning There; How Warden Brush and Principal Keeper Comnoughton Rule the Unruly; Punishment Tempered with Mercy; Good Food and Frequent Baths; Compulsory Eduation; Tobacco in the Cells; Most of the Inmates Once Went to Sunday School; Moral Training; What Hard Labor Means; Distinguished Prisoners; Ferdinand Ward; Jachnee; Buddensiek and Others; Modern Theories of Prison Discipline; Horror of the Slow-Passing Days; aD and


"I have just emerged from Sing Sing. " I was immured there in loathsome captivity for two entire days with that well-known desperado, Bronson Howard, but by our combined ingenuity and strength we managed to baffle justice and elude the authorities, and are now again at large."The State prison at Sing Sing affords a conspicuous advantage to the student of human nature, if the student should previously have been thoughtfully inclined to homicide, arson, burglary, grand larceny, embezzlement, or the gentler arts of penmanship, the authorities will cheerfully enable him to pursue his studies of nature in that institution, and are prepared to guarantee him all the seclusion and freedom from rough interruptions by the outside world which his heart may desire . . . " . . . I saw the prison thoroughly. Every facity was afforded me by Warden A. A. Brush to pursue my investigation as I chose . . . "

“Juvenile Hall: Powder Keg of Rage, Racism" - Mike Goodman - Los Angeles Times

Youths Subjected to Sexual Degradation, Beatings and Rat-Pack Struggle to Survive


"This account of conditions at the hall located near County-USC Medical Center was compiled from legislative testimony, hall statistics, interviews with hall counselors, hall management, county probation sources and state officials, and in first-hand accounts by youngsters. Because most of the interviews were secured without official approval, the sources must remain unnamed."The findings were also borne out by an unsupervised, and unauthorized, inspection of the hall by a Times reporter . . . . "

1969 People's Park Demonstration and Arrests -"Inside Santa Rita: I was a UC Prisoner" - Tim Findley - San Francisco Chronicle


". . .Some 50 of the more than 400 arrested in Thursday's mass arrest of Berkeley demonstrators were seated in the bus. This reporter, who found himself trapped in the closing cordon of police and guardsmen and later in the mechanical formal arrests in a Berkeley parking lot, was among them. . ." 

"Nellie Bly a Prisoner" - Nellie Bly - New York World

"She Has Herself Arrested to Gain Entrance to a Station-House"


"The reasons for the undertaking which I describe below were: First, The World wanted to know how women - particularly innocent women - who fall into the hands of the police are treated by them, and second, what necessity, if any, there is for providing station-houses with matrons. . ."