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Oct. 12, 1913: Judge lets 'Workhouse Kelley' sentence himself

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Crime Updated: October 16, 2013 - 7:50 PM
 
Remember Otis Campbell, the town drunk on "The Andy Griffith Show"? He frequently let himself into Sheriff Andy Taylor's jail to sleep off a bender. Meet George Kelley, a Minneapolis resident whose struggle with alcohol landed him in the workhouse more than 100 times. A Minneapolis Tribune reporter was in court when a judge invited Kelley to set his own sentence.
 

Kelley Gives Himself
Thirty-Day Sentence


Man Who Has Been to Workhouse 102 Times Chooses Own Time.

Associates on Bridge Square Call Him “Workhouse” Kelley.

Judge Smith Gives Him Option of Time in City's Institution.

George Kelley, known to hundreds of bridge square men as “Workhouse Kelley,” went to the workhouse 102 times because judges of the municipal courts sentenced him there. Yesterday he made his record 103, but he sentenced himself after Judge C.L. Smith told him he could go up for as long as he liked.

“Well, give me about 30 days, judge,” said Kelley.

“Don't you think 90 days would be better for you,” said the judge. Kelley was stern as he faced the judge. “No, sir, I only want 30 days.”

“Thirty days it is,” said the judge. “You've been up there enough times so that you perhaps might think you have a right to say how long you'll go up for.”

18 Years in Workhouse.

Kelley gives his age as 82 years. He looks about 70 years old. He has lived in Minneapolis for the past 40 years. Of the 40 years, he has spent about 18 years in the workhouse. He has served more time than any other prisoner who has ever been in the workhouse.

Saturday was the first time Kelley has been in the workhouse in 1913. Last December he went to Oshkosh, Wis., to visit a brother, W.J. Kelley, who has given “Workhouse” Kelley an allowance of $20 a month for years. Before he got to his brother's house he was arrested and sent to jail. He got out of jail a week ago and returned to Minneapolis without having seen his brother. Friday night two police found him in lock-up alley, drunk.

He lives at the Grand Central hotel, 110 Second street south, when not in the workhouse.

 
"Lockup Alley" is in Block 38 of this section of a 1903 Minneapolis map. The narrow passage behind the Central Police Station was familiar to many of the city's unsavory characters in the late 1800s and early 1900s. (Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library's Minneapolis Collection)
 
The Minneapolis workhouse at 50th and Lyndale Avenues N. in about 1902. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)
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