New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Friday, July 12, 2024
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1837 A New Jail

A new prison was opened in New Orleans on July 12, 1837. The three-story $200,000 structure was located on the square bounded by Orleans, Marais, St. Ann and Treme.

The Bee news-paper printed the following report after inspecting the jail: “Tradition says, according to Frank Boatmer, who heard of it some years ago, that the parish prison, built in 1837, was called humorously, the ‘Mississippi Hotel.’ This was because so many Mississippians, who came to New Orleans to have a good time, found themselves in jail when they could not pay the debts incurred by their splurging. Some owed money to New Orleans merchants and were arrested for debts when they came.”

Imprisonment for debt was an accepted practice. On March 6, 1839, the Picayune newspaper had an editorial denouncing imprisonment for debt stating, “Our prison is crowded with debtors – the majority of them, it is fair to presume, honest debtors.”

The editor stated he would continue the campaign against the monstrous evil.

By the time of the Civil War, nearly all the constitutions of other states had abolished the imprisonment for debt. But, strange to say, it was not until Jan. 1, 1961, that imprisonment for debt was abolished legally in Louisiana.

The last suit under the old code was fought as late as 1948. In the early morning of March 23, 1948, Juan Malamud from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was arrested in his room at the Roosevelt Hotel and taken to the parish prison where he was confined after the assurance of a writ under Article 209 of the Code of Practice.

He was arrested upon complaint of a firm in New York city that alleged that he was indebted to them for the sum of $10,000, and to get out of jail he had to post a $15,000 bail.

Source: Buddy Stall at