Early in the state’s history, those who walked the walls and halls of the first prisons helped establish and mold the modern correctional profession. One such individual was Captain of the Yard A.C. McAllister who earned the respect of the inmates at San Quentin and went on to help serve the indigent and elderly in Marin County. As part of an ongoing effort to tell the stories of early penologists,, Inside CDCR took a closer look at McAllister’s life.
Unlocking History: For Victims’ Rights Week, Inside CDCR looks at an unsolved 1890s murder – and a likely suspect
Longtime popular merchant Ah Yee was robbed and murdered in 1898. His killer was never caught but in 1904, investigators believed Adolph Weber, a young man accused of murdering his entire family, was also responsible for the earlier murder. Ah Yee’s slaying led the governor to offer a reward to help close the case. Inside CDCR takes a closer look at the murder of Ah Yee, possibly another of Weber’s many victims. More than a century later, the victim is given a voice.
In 1885, the state created the prison matron position, allowing women to work in prisons overseeing female inmates. The first statewide push for Women’s Suffrage was in 1896, but it effort failed. In 1911, after more than a decade of campaigning and marches, women won the right to vote. Eventually, the first female warden was put in charge of the California Institution for Women. By the early 1970s, women were hired as correctional officers in men’s prisons. That same decade saw women entering into other prison jobs typically held by men. Women fought long and hard to earn the right to work alongside men in the state prison system. Inside CDCR looks at part of their struggle.
Jean “Bessie” Barclay, daughter of a prominent attorney, found life for women in the early 1900s limiting and stifling. Bucking conventional customs of the time, she frequently ran away from home as a teenager, disguised in male clothing. She claimed to be seeking a life of adventure, not one at the beck-and-call of men. In modern society, her fate would probably have been very different but in that time period, a woman wearing men’s clothing and taking on men’s jobs was unacceptable. By 1911, she found herself under a doctor’s knife to supposedly cure her of her penchant for thievery.
A 1905 San Quentin inmate managed to turn her life around, later finding herself in a position to help others do the same. Newlyweds Aimee Meloling, a nurse by trade, and her husband Albert were convicted of burglary and sentenced to separate prisons. Aimee was shipped to San Quentin’s Women’s Ward while Albert was sent to Folsom State Prison. After their release, Aimee continued working on improving herself. She got a divorce, worked for numerous charities serving children and eventually landed a job with the Alameda County Jail overseeing the female inmates.
In 1914, the effort to reform the two state prisons and further inmate rehabilitation was given special attention by the governor. Moving the warden from Folsom to San Quentin unlocked a series of reforms implemented at the state’s oldest prison. One of the new warden’s first priorities was to shake up the Women’s Ward at San Quentin. Jessie Whalen, an “expert psychologist” regarding rehabilitation, had a long career in public service. Her story, like many early correctional staff, has been lost over time but their experiences helped shape today’s CDCR. As part of an ongoing effort to honor the memories of these pioneering penologists, Inside CDCR took a closer look at Jessie Whalen.