The “Trusty” Abuse

Source Type: Newspaper
Author: n.a.
Publisher: The Vicksburg American
Place of publication: Vicksburg, MS
Date of publication: 4/11/1908

The Picayune publishes a timely editorial on the “trusty” abuse; the practice by which the object and purpose of law and justice is frustrated by giving a prisoner practical freedom after he has served for a certain length of time, and giving him, as frequently done, a position as guard or warden, with unlimited opportunity to escape, to commit other crimes, or to assist or connive at the escape of other prisoners.

The case of Walter Clayton, an Alabama prisoner, is cited as an extreme example of the “trusty” evil. This convict, under sentence for manslaughter, was allowed practically complete freedom, which he improved by committing an atrocious outrage upon a respectable white woman, and was only deterred from addinto to his crime by the murder of his victim iby timely interruption. He was captured by an enraged mob and is presumed to have been lynched. Before his death he is said to have confessed to the inhuman murder for which, by some inexplicable process, he had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment for manslaughter. Surely this case is sufficient text for a vigorous protest against the “trusty” system, even if it were the only one in which the privilege had been abuse; but there are many others, though rarely one so flagrant. A use to which these “trusties” are most frequently purt is that of making them guards of other prisoners; even, in many cases, of supplying them with weapons and giving them the custody of keys. In Gulfport, Mississippi, a few days ago, a wholesale jail delivery of desperate negro criminals took place through the deliberate connivance of one of these “trusties,” whose duty it was to lock his fellow-prisoners into their cells at night, and who obligingly neglected to do so, also facilitating their escape from the jail by means of a broken window through which an escape had formerly been made, and which had never been properly repaired.

The object of a sentence is to punish for crime, and to protect society at large from an enemy. Both objects are completely nullified by the “trusty” system. It is an unwarranted and monstrous perversion of the intentions of law and a menace to public safety. It takes away the primitive effect of a term in prison, and completely defeats the ends of justice.


“The “Trusty” Abuse.” The Vicksburg American (Vicksburg, MS), April 11, 1908.