What We Don't Know

Mills' plans, the minutes of the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the prison itself tell us much about the building’s early years. The commitment books, the weekly Mount Holly Herald, a State Health Inspector’s report in 1886 and various news clippings and copies of reports on visits to the jail which have made it to the Prison Museum Association files. They tell us much about the years 1869-1890, and a little about the prison in the 1900s.

However, there are huge gaps in our knowledge, such as:

  • What foods were served to the inmates when the prison opened?
  • How did meals change over time?

  • How were inmates dressed over the years?

  • How many inmates escaped? How did they do it? Were they caught?

  • What were the maximum, minimum, and average number of inmates per year?

  • What were the racial and gender ratios of the inmates relative to the general county population? Did those ratios change over time?

  • Did the crimes for which inmates were incarcerated change over time? Did immigration, Prohibition, Camp/Fort Dix, or other factors affect the pattern?

  • How many inmates died? What were the causes?

  • When were flush toilets, sinks, and bathtubs introduced?

  • What was it like to be confined to the jail? Did confinement change over time?

We need help in building files of facts, which can answer these and any other questions you can think of. Can you develop and use computer programs to analyze data? Can you read the contemporary local newspapers, particularly those published in Mount Holly? Can you share letters, diary references, stories or oral histories from friends and family who were either incarcerated in the jail, or employed in some capacity (guards, lawyers, police, etc.) by the jail?

Please contact us
Prison Museum Association
PO Box 483
Mt. Holly, NJ 08060