I’ve always had a macabre fascination with prisons, and when I was formulating the story for HANNAH’S VOW, I knew I wanted a bad one for my hero. It took some digging, but with the help of a family friend who worked in a local university library, I found the perfect prison in which Quinn Landry would suffer.
You see, he shouldn’t have been in prison in the first place, but his older brother accused him of murder and did some conniving with the local law, and before Quinn could defend himself, he was whisked across Texas state lines and thrown into a notorious prison in New Mexico Territory.
This penitentiary was based on the Maine State Prison in the early 1830s. The convicts were housed in underground cells and sounded just awful. The dungeons were one story high with no way in or out except for a two feet square opening above them, secured with an iron grate. The convicts descended into the pits by a ladder, which was removed, of course, once they were down.
The pits were eight feet long, four feet wide, and nine feet high. Sometimes, the prisoner was in solitary, sometimes he shared the cell. There was no lighting, and at the bottom of the pit, only a small hole, one and a half inch in diameter, which allowed heated air in from the penitentiary’s furnace. No privies, either, but a tub was provided at night so they could do their business.
During the day, the convicts toiled in workshops as blacksmiths, wagon-makers, shoe-makers, wood-cutters and tailors. Some of the hardest criminals worked in a stone quarry. The female prisoners spent their time in wash-houses under the strict eye of a female officer.
In reality, this particular penitentiary sold the fruits of the convicts’ labors at full market price, and convicts were fed well. Their daily rations of beef or pork, bread, potatoes, and mush and molasses (breakfast) were surprisingly generous, as was their allowance for tobacco. They were allowed visitors and attended religious services on Sunday afternoons. For their care, the prisoners rarely died and hardly got sick.
But in fiction, Quinn had it much worse. He lives for revenge. It’s the only thing keeping him alive. When he learns of drug experiments on the prisoners, he knows he could die next. To right the wrongs dealt against him, he must risk his life and escape. And Hannah, of course, is there as his very unwilling ticket to freedom.
Drug experiments on the incarcerated is not a new practice, and there are distinct advantages, if you will. In modern times, the inmates are in a controlled environment, are available and usually healthy. In addition, they have a choice whether to volunteer. They’re informed and often paid for their trouble. The reasons they volunteer are varied, and while that could be fodder for a whole ‘nother blog, suffice to say, Quinn didn’t have a choice. 🙂 And doesn’t that make for much more interesting reading–especially when Hannah is there to stir up a little romance between them?
HANNAH’S VOW is now available as an e-book, and for a limited time, only 99 cents!
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So . . . have you ever visited a prison or jail before? What were your impressions?
How do you feel about drug experiments on humans, incarcerated or otherwise?
Let’s talk! I’ll draw a winner for a book of her choosing from my backlist!