Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Reprieve for Jail with Checkered Past

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Reprieve for Jail with Checkered Past

Article excerpt

Uncle Tom's Cabin is coming down.

The Duval County jail is on a hit list to be demolished.

Once it was thought a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

The foreboding building next to the Duval County Courthouse is

long still now, an afterthought, perhaps, to all save those who

struggled with its hospitality. The glory of its yesteryear has

flown like a bird from a gilded cage.

Almost eight years it has been now since the local lockup was

replaced by the John E. Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility

(which the non-initiate also call the Duval County jail). Alas,

the old jail's memory shall live more in infamy than in its

shining moments of glory.

Few recall the Duval County jail was once the shining star of

Southern penology.

It is remembered most for the years it trundled on under the

disdainful eye of federal court, burdened by a prisoner cap

inspired by the pen of a disgruntled car thief. Few crises more

perplexed municipal servants than the manifold shortcomings of

the local bastille.

Even as deserving miscreants clamored for incarceration,

federal court limited use of the Duval jail, seemingly unmindful

of the time, not so long ago, when jails were incommodious by

design, bad places on purpose.

So it was in Duval County through much of history. We took no

back seat in rubber hoses.

From the days of Isaiah Hart and the likkered-up pioneers,

through three wars and the Great Depression, through Prohibition

and shipyards and Navy bases and Georgia-Florida football games,

toil in the county lockup, ironically located on Liberty Street,

was dark and drear. Men were hanged in the jail Uncle Tom's

Cabin replaced in 1958.

Such a breath of fresh air the new jail was!

Light and airy as a place without windows can be. Spic and

span. An institution that church, civic and fraternal

organizations visited on field trips. It served neat lunch.

"Uncle Tom's Cabin on the banks of the beautiful St. Johns,"

the tour guides described it to guests.

Uncle Tom was Tom Heaney, personable jail-keeper who was named

outstanding warden in the United States by the National Jail

Association in 1962. …

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