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Joseph Edward Ragen Papers

Identifier: BC531

Scope and Contents

The Joseph Edward Ragen Papers, 1926-1971, consist of 8 manuscript boxes. Correspondence (Boxes 1-3) in this collection consists of letters of recommendation, 1932; a few letters and petitions from prisoners at Menard penitentiary, 1933-1934; and personal letters received while Director of Public Safety, 1961-1965. The letter files also contain statistical reports, clippings, brochures, and other miscellaneous material. During his tenure in office, Ragen conducted many studies of penal systems and institutions in other states. Available in the collection are typed bound copies of reports for Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming (Boxes 6-8). Draft copies for two unpublished books by Ragen are also on file (Box 4): “The Devil Stoned” a 327-page history of penology in Illinois with emphasis on the construction and management of Stateville and “Life and 99 Years,” a 448-page description of prison life, based on the daily activities of the prisoners and conversations with them. Among the unpublished papers (Boxes 4-5) are “Penitentiary and Underworld Slang, Words, and Phrases,” a dictionary; “True Facts of the Prison Stateville, 1933-1960,” an inmate’s views of prison; and “Attitudes of Joliet-Stateville Prisoners toward Parole,” a master’s thesis written in 1938 by Donald Rasmussen of the University of Illinois. Received with the collection is a typed transcript of the Alton prison register, 1833-1841 (Box 3). This volume provides descriptive information about prisoners Numbers 1 through 319, with name, physical characteristics, and case history.


  • Created: 1926-1971
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1972


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research


3.33 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Joseph Edward Ragen was a penologist for the Illinois prison system. The collection includes papers, published and unpublished manuscripts by Ragen and other penologists, reports, correspondence, clippings, and scrapbooks containing biographical information about Ragen, as well as a wealth of information about the history of the Illinois penal system, prison administration, statistics, and education for prisoners. Ragen also acted as a consultant for several other state prison systems, and the reports he produced for those states are included in the collection.

Arrangement Note

Materials are arranged in five series: Series 1, Personal Papers; Series 2, Manuscripts by Persons Other than Joseph Ragen; Series 3, Papers, Reports, Manuals, Etc. Regarding Stateville; Series 4, Manuscript Reports and Studies of Prisons in Other States; and Series 5, Miscellaneous Published Material. Series 1 includes memoranda books, letters of recommendation, papers regarding Ragen's duties as Warden at the Southern Illinois Penitentiary, personal correspondence, historical records from the Illinois prisons where Ragen worked, speeches and articles, writings and unpublished papers, and biographical materials including scrapbooks. Series 2 includes unpublished papers and miscellaneous items authored by other penologists. Series 3 consists of materials pertaining to Ragen's tenure at the Joliet-Stateville prisons, including materials on training guards and educating prisoners, annual reports, and a report on the Vandalia State Farm. Series 4 consists of reports on prisons in other states, beginning with miscellaneous correspondence regarding the reports, after which the reports are arranged alphabetically by state. Series 5 includes 32 published booklets, pamphlets, and reports.

Separated Materials

Several published items and 5 notebooks of photographs were transferred out of the collection to other Library Departments: Time Joliet-Stateville (15 Vols); Menard Time (4 Vols.); IL State Penitentiary—Rules and Regulations; Williams, Elmer—Curious Career of Tom Courtnev; Photographs of Menard and Stateville Prisons (5 Vols.).
Archon Finding Aid Title
Karl Janssen
Description rules
Other Unmapped
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collection Repository

112 North Sixth Street
Springfield IL 62701 US
(217) 558-8923