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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Department of Corrections
Michael D. Crews, Secretary

Florida Corrections:  Centuries of Progress
1922-1924

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1922

Inmate population
December 31, 1922:
1,411

Inmates skilled in carpentry are given the momentous task of building Florida's first electric chair to be used to execute inmates sentenced to death. Lawmakers consider the electric chair a more humane method of execution than public hanging, which took place in the yards of county courthouses. Hanging was a complex procedure, and miscalculations in the person's weight or choice of rope sometimes resulted in decapitation. This chair will remain in use for decades.

Electric Chair
The electric chair is introduced in 1922 in what is seen as a humanitarian measure. (Photo courtesy of FPC.)

Open stretch of road lined with men in prison uniforms using shovels.
Convict labor constructing road in Temple Terrace (originally part of Tampa, but later incorporated as a separate city). (Photo courtesy of FPC.)

Convicts lined up in front of large wooden buildings.
Taylor County convict labor force in the 1920s. (Photo courtesy of FPC.)

UNION COUNTY BLADE
11 AUGUST 1922

LOCAL AND PERSONAL - Superintendent J. S. BLITCH of the state prison farm was among those to renew subscription to the Blade this week.

1923

Inmate population
December 31, 1923:
1,386

Governor Cary Hardee discontinues the convict lease system, resulting in a rise in the number of convicts at the prison. Public hanging is also abolished.

In the early 1920s, Florida employed about 40 prison officers.

Inmates working on the Road
Inmates work on roads and highways.

1925 Map of Florida Roads and Highways
1925 map of Florida roads and highways. (Photo courtesy of FPC.)

Public hanging platform
Public hanging was abolished. (Photo courtesy of FPC.)

Death Chamber from witness view showing electric chair and old witness chairs
The electric chair at Florida State Prison.
telegram
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
This consoling telegram from Superintendent J.S. Blitch to inmate Joseph D. Woodard foreshadows his upcoming parole, and the unusually keen interest displayed by not only Superintendent Blitch, but State of Florida Comptroller Ernest Amos (who wrote a secret letter to Woodard telling him he would soon be paroled) and even then-Attorney General Rivers Buford, who also assured Woodard that he was being paroled shortly. Woodard, who was serving two years for embezzlement, had documentation attesting to an eye condition that, if gone untreated, would have rendered him blind. This was the purported reason for his parole, though his friends in high places might also have contributed to this outcome.


1924

Inmate population
December 31, 1924:
1,381

Frank Johnson, a black male, was executed for murder on October 7, 1924 and becomes the first person to be executed by electrocution at Florida State Prison.


List of electrocutions, including Frank Johnson, for murder.
When the state of Florida began executing inmates in 1924, the official list was typed and placed in a notebook kept at the prison. Under the “color” category, the “C” stands for “colored,” not Caucasian. The county represents the county of conviction. “Date” indicates the date the inmate was executed.

Frank Johnson, Alias, Luther Derrill, from Duval County Circuit Court. Crime Murder in the First. Sentenced April 4th, 1924 to death. Received October 1st, 1924. Legally executed by electrocution at 2:30 p.m. October 7th, 1924.
Prison staff kept details of each execution including the exact time of death and witnesses who attended, if any. Often, the sheriff of the county where the inmate was convicted served as executioner.

Personnel Card for Frank Johnson
Records were kept of each Florida inmate on “Personnel Cards” such as this one for Frank Johnson, the first inmate executed by the state of Florida. Note that he was “Buried Here,” meaning at a cemetery on the prison grounds, a practice that continues today if the family does not claim the body.

Man in Electric Chair
In this photo, prison trusty Jack Palmer is strapped into the electric chair at Raiford for a scene in the movie "The Last Mile." (Photo courtesy of FPC.)

1925

Clarence Martin
DC#:16568
Name:Clarence Martin
Date Received:7/7/25
Age:24
Offense:Breaking & Entering
Date Sentenced:6/26/25
County:Pinellas
Sentence Imposed:18 months
Release:11/4/26
sentence expiration
Less than two years after his release, Clarence Martin begins his second incarceration at age 24.

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