Violence Behind Bars

By Floyd, Craig W. | Corrections Today, February 1997 | Go to article overview

Violence Behind Bars


Floyd, Craig W., Corrections Today


Editor's note: Reprinted from the July/August 1996 issue of American Police Beat with the permission of the author.

Approximately 1,500 inmates had gathered for the noon meal at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. One of the inmates, Robert Stroud, was becoming more and more agitated. The previous day, one of the correctional officers, Andrew Turner, had taken Stroud's name and inmate number. This usually is a sign that a disciplinary report will be filed, and Stroud was worried that an upcoming visit with his brother might be canceled.

The thought of missing that visit was too much for Stroud to bear. He requested permission to leave his table and approached Turner to ask if he had filed a report on his conduct. Turner, who had only been transferred to Leavenworth recently, told the inmate that no report had been filed. Stroud apparently still had his doubts, though, because suddenly he pulled out a homemade knife and fatally stabbed the officer in the heart. The date was March 26, 1916.

The other inmates were so shocked by the senseless killing that they raised $400 - an exorbitant sum of money at the time - and donated it to Turner's family, which included a wife and two young children.

Stroud was convicted of murdering the 39-year-old correctional officer and sentenced to hang. However, President Woodrow Wilson commuted his sentence to life imprisonment and Stroud went on to live another 50 years in the federal prison system. To help fill some of the long days behind bars, Stroud developed a fascination with birds, and soon after his death in 1963, he was immortalized in film as "The Birdman of Alcatraz."

Andrew Turner is one of 314 correctional officers at the federal, state and local level to die in the line of duty. He was only the second member of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to be killed. All totaled, 21 members of the Federal Bureau of Prisons have been killed in the line of duty. The most recent death occurred in December 1994 when D'Antonio Washington, 31, was viciously assaulted by an inmate who beat him to death with a hammer. …

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