New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Monday, June 17, 2024
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1839 Debtors Prison

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.

Source: Buddy Stall at