Welcome back to Part II of “Buffalo Dale Behind The Walls…”. Before we get to “D” block I want to remind you that my paperwork hasn’t been processed yet and there’s a few more hoops to jump through before I get my second interview with Mr. Anderson. Also at this point in time I had not read “In Cold Blood” or seen the new movie about Truman Capote and these things will have some meaning as we continue our tour.
“D” block is where the mules used to be housed back in 1879 when the inmates started mining for coal on the 2,538-acre prison property. Today there are around 30 miles of mine tunnels under the city of Lansing from this period. This section of the prison was later converted to inmate housing with wire mesh doors and block walls but you can still imagine the mules and coal mining prisoners who once occupied this area.
“H” block is our next stop where there is dormitory style housing and this is where Brett tells me about the Safe Harbor prison dogs. The inmates here all have a dog assigned to them from the local pound and they train them to sit, come, and stay. They housebreak, or in this case prison break, the dogs and then adopt them out. At the present time 1,250 I must say very well trained dogs have been adopted. I was very impressed with all the inmates here and if you’re interested in adopting a dog from their program here is their website: www.safeharborprisondogs.com You’ll get a great dog and what a story to tell your friends. You can also call my new friend Laura Phillippi for more info at (913) 250-0203.
My blood pressure takes an upward spike here as Brett’s radio started getting some chatter going and before you know it all the cell doors close, guards are scrambling and I am locked in. There’s been a security breach and I’m thinking about an inmate takeover but wait — I’ve been watching too many movies. It’s a false alarm and before you know it things are back to normal. Brett doesn’t blink an eye and we move on.
As we walk toward the clinic, Brett is telling me more about the notorious Hickock and Smith story and about Truman Capote. The clinic provides dental, optical care, physical therapy, x-ray and laboratory work along with mental health crisis intervention counseling and psychological evaluations of the inmates. This is very good care for men that are in a bad situation in life.
As we near the maximum security “B” block I want to mention that neither Brett nor the warden know who Chub Anderson is. To them he is just another man doing his time.
With that in mind this is where a strange thing happened.
I was following Brett into “B” block and listening to his Hickock and Smith stories when we stopped about 20 cells down the corridor. This is where Hickock and Smith must have been held before they were hung in 1965. Over the P.A. I hear “mess call, mess call”. It is 12:30 p.m. and time for the prisoners in this section to be released for lunch. As I listen to the click, click, click, click of automatic locks opening, men start leaving their cells. They are putting on their clothes as they come out because its over 100 degrees in the prison — no AC here and it’s hot!
As Brett continues to talk, the door to one of these cells opens and a thin older man with a shaved head steps right out in front of me. I have to take a second and a third look to believe my eyes but yes it is Chub Anderson pulling on his clothes less than 10 feet from me! I don’t think he recognizes me and I interrupt Brett’s story to mention that this is the man I’m trying to see. Brett is also quite amazed and he reminds me that I haven’t been cleared for any conversation so I just watch Chub walk down to the cafeteria for lunch. His condition looks about the same as a couple of weeks ago as he walks away without speaking to anyone.
Now the odds against my stopping at his cell at that time had to be astronomical — that out of 2,400 men I would run into Chub this way. It must have been fate. But in any event I obeyed the rules and Warden McKune appreciated it.
I am about out of space so the information that Warden McKune copied me on about Hickock and Smith and how Truman Capote was granted access to these two killers will have to wait until next week. But before I go here are a few quick facts about the Kansas State Penitentiary:
• The prison was founded in 1859 and it is the largest and oldest prison in the state.
• Until 1909 the prison also housed inmates from Oklahoma.
• The prison has provided $1,098,680 in free community labor for many different state projects.
The ethnic breakdown of the prison population is as follows:
• Caucasian — 59 percent
• African American — 38 percent
• Native American — 2.2 percent
• Asian — .5 percent
The age breakdown of the prison population is:
• 19 and under — .2 percent
• 20-29 — 29 percent
• 30-39 — 34 percent
• 40-49 — 25 percent
• 50-59 — .8 percent
• over 60 — .3 percent
• The average age for a prisoner is 36 years old. The oldest inmate is 86 and the youngest is 16. Anderson will soon be 65.
Next week: they lived together, killed together, were hung together and they’re buried together. Dick Hickock and Perry Smith — my Behind the Walls’ scoop. Also coming up 20 tons of pot northeast of Dewey and my connection to landowner Pat Scudder.
Until then, released on good behavior at 2:10 p.m. July 27, one Original Buffalo Dale and I’ll see ya down the road.