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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Sat., Jan. 4, 2014, midnight

From our archives, 100 years ago

A reporter paid a visit to Spokane County’s Honor Farm –  a work camp for first offenders – and came away convinced that it was a far better place than jail.

It was, essentially, a timber camp in the woods northeast of Spokane. About 20 men lived in a log house and worked all day cutting wood. In the evening, they played cards, read books and wrote letters. There were no locks and no gun-toting guards. The food was warm, plentiful and of “good working quality.” The cook “knows his trade,” and “when he concerns himself with pie creation, the result is strictly pie.”

This was all the idea of deputy prosecutor Tom Corkery, who believed that jail made first-time offenders into hardened criminals.

“There he absorbs prison mental and physical poison,” said Corkery. “Caging a man up for 30 days is the same thing as binding his muscles for that same length of time.”

The men at the honor farm were, to a man, glad to be there instead of in jail. They talked in the “easy, even key of men who knew they could be a lot worse off than they are.”

Only one man had walked away from the honor farm so far – and the other men were glad to be rid of him. They said he wouldn’t take a bath and suffered from what they cryptically called “novel sensations, or rather, the lack of familiar ones.”

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