Getting Jailed in Siouxland, The Squirrel Cage, Council Bluffs

29 May
Lots of metal at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Being incarcerated is not for the faint of heart. And hopefully most folk will never encounter such an ordeal whether in Siouxland or elsewhere. The Squirrel Cage in Council Bluffs had been in operation for a few decades. Visiting such an inhospitable place as a museum gave me pause for those who spent time there for supposed crimes until each’s trial. One of only a few such places built in the United States it opened for “business” in 1885 and was in use until 1969.

A former county jail, the Squirrel Cage Museum is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail time was not to be envied at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Minimal accommodations at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Every manner of “criminal” from juveniles to adults were housed in the jail which used a rotating 3-story cell system, which history shows escaped any major catastrophe such as a fire since there would have been no way for a jailer, who lived on site with his family, could have safely gotten all prisoners out. In early days criminal offices for getting locked up included adultery, which could probably fill many a hotel these days, both famous and not famous. Those folks were also jailed with arsonists, domestic abusers, murderers and children who ran afoul of the law.

Docent Kat Slaughter gives tours at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Docent Kat Slaughter gives tours at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Docent Kat Slaughter gave a nice 45-minute tour about the jail, its history and the good, bad and ugly aspects of the jail. Originally she said the rotating cells were operated by an underground water system which was later replaced. And there was only one boiler, and summers were extremely uncomfortable because heat rises and prisoners places within metal confines throughout and at the top of the jail could not escape the heat.

But evidently, for some, that was not enough of a deterrent as even evident today, to keep on the straight and narrow.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Jail time was not to be envied at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sneak peek into the past visiting at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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