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Sanitary Conditions at the US Disciplinary Barracks

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“Slum” which is the chief article of diet, is a slimy concoction of gravy, potatoes, dissected frank-furters and sometimes, carrots; it is serve from six to nine times a week. The attenuated, pathological “Wieners” are ubiquitous, appearing in the slum, the beans and, probably, the hash, besides being served whole. Only twice a week, Wednesday and Sunday, is anything like an approximation to real meat served; the rest of the week it is “embalmed” products. The coffee contains no milk and no sugar and is undrinkable. The bread, however, is very good. The “syrup” is merely sugar and water. The sugar in the rice and tapioca if present at all, is not perceptible.

Cleanliness and care are obviously not predominating virtues among the kitchen force; a rat was found in the slum; one discovers pieces of newspaper baked in the corn-bread; pebbles and other foreign matter accompany the beans. The driver of one of the gang’s “chow wagons” one day dropped his dirty glove in the tank containing the slum; he rolled his sleeve up to his elbow and calmly reached in. Such incidents are common.

Another potential source of infection is the bath-room. The soap is kept in tin receptacles as large as garbage cans and resembling these closely in appearance. In the same room the prisoners are shaved, the barbers frequently being inexperienced and the equipment being of the rudest description. The chairs look like specimens of domestic juvenile carpentry. The shaving is done “close” and with reckless “dash, so that lacerations are in order. The lined used looks not at all too inviting.

No provision whatever is made for manicuring the nails. Most of the men bite them off. One C.O. remarked that he was not averse to doing this with his finger nails, but thought his ‘toe-nailes [sic] too tough for such a method.’

If one is going to be sick, he must divine it the evening before, so as to inform the room orderly to wake him for early mass. Then the prisoner goes to the hospital, where he diagnoses his own case and usually specifies the medicament he desires. He can get pills, salts or oil. If he has a sore throt [sic], he is marched into the operating room (whether occupied or not) and is “swabbed.”

Out on the gang, the danger of of [sic] infection is largely that of the common drinking cup. The water is kept in a stationary can or carried about in a pail, into which the men dip one or two cups of water. The universal habit of exchanging cigarette “butts” is very unhygienic too That such customs prevail is not surprising, but nothing is done to abolish them is deplorable, especially when the utmost rigor is exercised to compel a prisoner to maintain a certain prescribed neat arrangement of his possessions on his bed. He is tried for defacing his cloths, but not for tattooing his person; he is punished for having a “dirty bowl”, but not for possessing a dirty mouth.

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