Asking "What's Going on" About a Newspaper Blurb

“Two white inmates of the Indiana female prison set fire to the building because they were compelled to eat with colored inmates.”

That is all that is said about a fire, racial tensions, and prison life in a column of an Indianapolis newspaper in 1892. The short blurb raises a series of questions: Were the living quarters in prison segregated by race at this time? What were the conditions these women were living in and how were they able to start a fire? Were they any casualties of this fire? What happened to the women who set the fire? What was the role of the wardens? What were the perspectives of the black women? From the short blurb, we can gleam that the dining area of the prison was not racially segregated. In 1892, Indiana ran under a unique set of segregation rules; Indiana was the only northern state to permit, not require, schools to be racially segregated. The lack of information in this newspaper blurb highlights that individuals who are incarcerated are removed from public knowledge. Similarly, those who have no connection to the criminal justice system today do not know what goes on behind the prison walls.