St. Augustine’s Old Jail is located in historic St. Augustine, Florida.
The Old Jail served as the St Johns County Jail until 1953. Through all those years the place was a madhouse of depravity and cruelty. Most prisoners debasing themselves to common animals while the staff running the joint slowly went insane and did all manner of sketchy things.
The original building – before it was sold to entrepreneur Henry “Slim” McDaniel who began operating the roadside tourist attraction – house up to 72 prisoners. It consisted of a two-story north wing for the general population, a maximum-security area, a women’s section, and a lower level kitchen. The maximum-security section was the equivalent of Arkham asylum; the place housing the Jokers and Riddlers of Florida and even having a Death Row cell for those hooligans condemned to die.
Inside it was a deplorable mess that really talked volumes on what Flagler really value. The industrialist didn’t spare a dime on the exterior while going out of his way to cut corners were the prisoners’ were concerned.
The conditions were incredibly poor and dreadful. Prisoners were typically used as free farm laborers and forced to slug it out as indentured servants in the Florida heat for plantation owners. The guards and the warden lining their pockets with the money that was supposed to go to building maintenance and their charges.
Meanwhile, after a day of backbreaking toil, the condemned were marched back into the jailhouse and basically crammed into small cells. Baths were a pipe-dream, toilets were nothing more than a shared bucket that was passed from cell to cell when the need arose, and beds were slabs of termite infested wood that served as a collective cot.
The prisoners had to supplement their diets with whatever they managed to catch either inside their cells or while working in the fields. Segregation by race was steadfastly adhered to at the Jail and illness, brutality and death were common.