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This Week in History: Inmate took advantage of sheriff’s kindness

125 years ago in 1897

Taken directly from the Youngstown Vindicator:

“Poorly repaid. Sheriff Callahan’s kindness to a prisoner not appreciated. Joe Brophy on a ‘tear.’ Somebody smuggled whiskey to him and he then broke a lot of dishes.

“Prisoners in the county jail may not expect any more privileges from Sheriff Callahan or his assistants. The sheriff, who is naturally of a kind disposition, and never liked to be ‘too hard on the boys,’ has had his faith in humanity very much shaken and his sensibilities shocked by the conduct of one of the county jail prisoners, who took advantage of the kindness shown him by the sheriff and his deputies, and only made matters worse for himself and the other prisoners for the future.

“The prisoner who was guilty of such unseemly conduct was Joe Brophy. He has been in the jail about six months and has three months more to serve. Acting on the advice of the jail physician that Brophy ought, if it were possible, to have some exercise, the sheriff gave instructions that, as he had been good all along, he might be permitted to carry in coal or do other odd jobs about the jail.

“Nobody doubts but that Brophy’s intentions were all right, as for a while he attended strictly to business. But in an unlucky moment someone passed him a bottle of whiskey.

“The temptation was too great. He set down the bucket of coal, pressed the bottle to his lips, tilted back his head, turned his eyes skyward, and let ‘er run. It is said that Brophy never flinched until the last drop had gone down.

In a few minutes, the whiskey commenced to ‘work’ and Brophy soon lost his head, figuratively speaking, and was quickly prancing about. He went into the jail and commenced on Mrs. Callahan’s dishes. He fired them right and left at a lively rate, smashing them into a thousand pieces.

“The clatter soon brought Frank Bauer to the scene, but Brophy was disposed to keep right on breaking whatever he could get his hands on. The deputy seized him and ordered him back into the jail, and had a warm tussle with him before he got him there. While speaking of the matter to a Vindicator reporter Monday, Sheriff Callahan dryly remarked that hereafter, prisoners could take their medicine and no more privileges would be granted them for the sake of exercise or anything else.”

• Compiled from the archives of The Vindicator by Traci Manning, Mahoning Valley Historical Society curator of education.

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