Michael Humphrey

Michael Humphrey shares what life was like behind bars during the first "Life of an Inmate Tour." 

MANSFIELD -- Michael Humphrey stepped out from one of the cells at the Ohio State Reformatory with handcuffs securing his wrists.

An officer approached him, stating, "Inmate #77663, it's time for your tour."

After releasing Humphrey from the handcuffs, the officer said, "Remember, we've got them counted so if anybody turns up missing, you know who we're going to be talking to about it."

Looking at the several guests in attendance, Humphrey said, "Welcome to the Ohio State Reformatory."

The Canton native gave people an idea of what life was like behind bars at the historic prison during the first "Life of an Inmate Tour" Wednesday night.

For the tour, Humphrey sported blue jeans, suspenders, and a button-down shirt with the number 77663 printed on it -- an exact replica of what he wore in prison, he said.

Humphrey spent 14 months at the Reformatory from 1969-1970. He was 18 years old when he entered.

"I came here partially because I had left home at a very early age due to a very dysfunctional family and a very violent father," he said. "I had no money. I had no car. I had no job. I soon found myself in the wrong environment and I had an auto theft charge hanging over my head and a grand larceny charge.

Handcuffed

Michael Humphrey is released from handcuffs as he begins to give his tour. 

"When I got sentenced here, the judge was upset with me because I wouldn't tell him what he wanted to know as far as who else was involved in everything, so he put the charge on me. It was a 1 to 20 for auto theft; it was a 1 to 7 for grand larceny, which they did run concurrently, so I had a total charge of 2 to 27 with a stipulation of shock probation, meaning that they could bring me back in 30 days and if the judge was happy with what I had to tell him, then he would put me on probation and I wouldn't have to come back here.

"The only problem was my father was very upset. He didn't call the attorney; the attorney didn't call him. There was paperwork that needed to be signed and filed and I'm sure a fee paid with the courts in the state of Ohio within that 30-day time limit. And it never got done.

"So instead of spending 30 days here I had to spend 14 months here instead."

Tour

Guests take a look at the cells. 

Humphrey pointed to a cell in the east block, which is where he spent his first 30 days.  

"When they brought me in and they put me down in the cell, the first thing I noticed was the smell," he said. "The place smelled horrendous. And the noise. The noise was deafening."

The east block is made up of six tiers with 50 cells per row. Two inmates were placed in each cell.

"After day 31, they committed me, and they moved me up to three southeast cell four, which was the school range, and that's what I did the whole time I was here -- I went to school," he said.

He earned a 4.0 GPA and was the valedictorian.

"The place was very violent here," he said. "You have to remember you're dealing with a bunch of young guys, and first of all, they're mad 'cuz they're here."

For protection, he used to carry a toothbrush with a razor blade melded into the handle.

"Had I gotten caught with that, I'm sure it would have added six months to my sentence. But had I needed it and not had it, it might not have mattered," he said.

Humphrey showed where inmates used to shower, which only happened on Saturdays, thus explaining the "horrendous" smell.  

Showers

Humphrey takes guests to what were the east block showers. 

He also took guests to "the hole."

"This is where they brought you if you didn't want to act right," he said.

Originally, these cells had no bunks, no toilet and no sink.

"You slept down there naked, on the floor, with no mattress, blanket or pillow," he said.

Humphrey was sent to the hole once.

"When I was down here, it was bread and water the first two days. The third day I got a green bologna sandwich and a carton of warm milk, so after that third day I was totally convinced that I wasn't coming back to the hole again."

The hole

Humphrey shows where inmates were placed for solitary confinement--"the hole." 

After Humphrey was paroled, he was sent to the west block where all the "older guys were -- the guys that had the good jobs and longer sentences," he said.

"It was like two different worlds," he said. "I don't say that I hated to leave or anything like that, but I could've stayed there longer (in the west block) and not been too upset about it."

Paul Smith, executive director of the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society, was excited about the new tour and praised Humphrey, who now works at the Reformatory.

"He's a jack-of-all-trades," Smith said.

When Humphrey isn't giving a tour, he's working on restoration projects.

The Life of an Inmate Tour will be offered every other Wednesday evening from April to August. The tour costs $15 and is recommended for those 13 and older with adult participation. Register online at ohiostatereformatory.org.

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Thrive Reporter

Thrive reporter. Graduate of Ontario High School and Ohio State Mansfield. Wife. Mom. Dog lover. Fitness enthusiast. Plant collector. Mac and cheese consumer.