You won’t believe how well Maine prisoners ate in the 1930s

If you ask most people how prisoners in Maine are treated today, we bet most people will say they are treated very well and fed well. In most cases, their dietary restrictions (religious, allergies, etc.) are adhered to.

However, most people would probably have a very different opinion if you asked them about the treatment of Maine prisoners in the 1930s. You probably imagine that the prisoners spend more than 23 hours in cold, damp cells. And you probably imagine that they eat almost nothing but bread and water. Right?

Apparently that opinion would be wrong.

According to the annual Maine Prison System report on the Hathi Trust website, prisoners ate very well in the year ending June 30, 1936. In fact, they ate better than some of us do today.

For example, an average breakfast consists of oatmeal, pancakes, bread, butter and coffee. A typical lunch consists of roast beef, potatoes, cabbage, bread, butter and pudding. Dinner would be a lighter meal consisting of something like baked potatoes, vegetables, bread and butter.

Of course, one of the reasons they did so well was the fact that most (if not all) of the prisoners did physical labor. According to the report, they worked as woodworkers, upholsterers, farmers and even made license plates. Apparently that wasn’t just something from the movies.

In total, the prison system brought in just under $70,000 between 1935 and 1936. That would be worth about $1,500,000 in today’s terms!

If you’re a Maine history nerd, you’ll love studying this report. In addition to breaking down prisoners’ menus and how much money the prison system has brought in, the report looks at the average age of prisoners, the length of their sentences, the crimes they have committed and the careers they have had abroad. It also describes the medical problems they had.

You can view the entire report HERE.

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Gallery credits: Meg Dowdy