Prisons: Hell in Arkansas

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Another inmate, 51-year-old James Wilson, laconically reported that even returning escapees were gunned down. "If you had your hands up," Wilson said, "you ought to been praying. They going to kill you anyway." Then the killers would strip some of them "buck-naked and go on and drop 'em in."

More than 200 prisoners are listed as "escapees" from the farms since 1915. Some state officials dismissed the prisoners' stories, speculating that the skeletons uncovered may have been men buried in paupers' graves after natural deaths. But one reporter noted that the farm's potter's field is at least a mile from last week's digging site. Said Murton: "When a guy can go out and show you where the bodies are buried, and you go out and dig and there they are, it just has to increase his credibility."

Pathological tests on the skeletons are now being run at the University of Arkansas Medical Center. But even when they are completed, warned Governor Rockefeller, details of the investigation will be withheld from the public until a full state-police report is compiled. There is no point, he said, in "washing dirty linen for weeks on end as each body is dug up."

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