Quite often rogues seem inherently more interesting than the staid and worthy. Perhaps that is why I've spent more time than I should in researching a long-dead ne'er-do-well great uncle. During that genealogical quest I came across the California Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950 and indeed I did find my uncle in those records.

However, I got side-tracked when I saw the name James Bond who was incarcerated for committing an "Infamous Crime Against Nature" on the Register and Descriptive List of Convicts Under Sentence of Imprisonment at the State Prison at Folsom. Even though he was no kin of mine I had to pursue his story.

His records included not only a written description, but also mug shots. The 1901 Folsom Prison mug shot shows a fairly dapper young man, wearing a dark suit with wide lapels over a white shirt and light-colored tie. The record there indicates he was born in Australia, arrested in San Francisco County, age 24 (so born about 1877), with a light, ruddy complexion, blue eyes, black hair and he was 5'3" tall. The remarks show that he was transferred to San Quentin on June 30, 1906.

They say prison ages a man. In the San Quentin entry record his age is listed as 37 (which would mean he was actually born about 1869--I believe he probably lied about his age when first arrested in the hope the authorities would show leniency to a youth). He does not appear quite as dapper with his head shaved and wearing horizontal prison stripes, although he is wearing a jaunty polka-dotted kerchief.

Without knowing the exact circumstances of his crime--perhaps it was more infamous than most other Infamous Crimes Against Nature?--it is difficult to say if the punishment was just1, but it hardly seems fair: my illustrious relative--not the brightest bulb on the family tree!--served less than 9 years of a 90 year sentence for armed robbery, even though during an escape attempt he shot the Sheriff (but he did NOT shoot the Deputy!), while poor James served 12 years of a 20-year sentence. He was paroled in September 1908 and pardoned in September 1910. I could find no further record of Mr. Bond. My uncle? Only lasted three years on the outside. He was killed while robbing a boat on the Sacramento River.

1. The Sensibilities of Our Forefathers - The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States