When we saw the sign for the Crime and Punishment Museum in Ashburn, Georgia, it caught the interest of my son and his wife so we decided to check out the former Turner County jail that has now been converted to a museum.
We went to buy our tickets at the Chamber of Commerce which was across the street. There was a giant ant outside the door of the chamber that we later learned represented the fire ant for their fire ant festival (www.fireantfestival.com).
We arrived just on the tail end of a meeting and there was food laid out just like they were waiting for our arrival.Our guide Ben Baker, who is also the editor of the local Wiregrass Farmer and provides a prison ministry took us on a fascinating tour. He told us hair raising stories as well as stories of beloved men that served as the sheriff’s of Turner County. The jail itself is rather picturesque with the downstairs the home of the Sheriff and his wife and upstairs the cells held the prisoners. The wife cooked for prisoners when they were incarcerated and the Sheriff besides having the right to live in the home got a dollar a day when prisoners were there.
There were lots of stories, the saddest of a woman that was convicted of murder and hung after she killed her captor that had raped her and held her prisoner. Baker said that Jimmy Carter had eventually exonerated her claiming her innocent. Baker added, “Back then, she didn’t stand a chance.”
Ben Baker had explained the interesting items on hand like a picture of a jail van that took prisoners to worksites and they stayed in the mobile cell overnight. There was a replica of an electric chair that gave me the chills and a former Klu Klux Clan outfit.
But what really was eye opening was the jail’s execution chamber, where noose-wearing convicts were dropped to their deaths through a trap door into the sheriff’s office below. The bloodstained collar of one of them, Miles Cribb, is framed and mounted on the wall behind a hangman’s noose. His crime was the unintentional shooting and killing of his mother-in-law when he was trying to shoot the wife that had just left him.
Baker said there was another hanging where the hangee got away. Local performer “Cyndini,”raised funds by escaping from a straight jacket while hanging from the death hook.
While there were sad stories there were also light hearted ones that made the visit entertaining. One man that Baker said was perpetually in the sauce called the jail his home. They just let him in and he roamed free. “He was our Otis,” Baker said referring to the beloved Andy Griffith show.
If you plan ahead, you can receive a “last meal” and eat in the sheriff’s dining room. We left the site of the museum to checkout the World’s Largest Peanut. As we drove away we were on our best behavior determined to be nothing but a visitor in the Turner County jail!
Located at 241 E. College, call 229-567-9696 for more information and to confirm hours. Log onto https://www.facebook.com/pages/Crime-and-Punishment-Museum/442644999168818 for more information.