Purgatory in Plymouth
←Click here to go back to Part I: The Education of Charles Taylor
Built on a 200-acre farm southwest of downtown Plymouth in 1910, the old Plymouth County House of Correction “was easy to break out of compared to today’s updated facilities,” a former Plymouth County Sheriff’s public relations spokesman recalled.
It was also wicked overcrowded.
According to the Brockton Enterprise, the sheriffs “converted storage facilities to dormitories instead of individual cells,” in order to house county, state, and federal prisoners.
Amidst the makeshift mayhem, one of Charles Taylor’s new pals in lockup was a former surgical resident named “Doc” who’d botched a previous attempted borstal breakout.
“Doc” MacKinnon was a hot shit back in the day.
He weaved in and out of jail cells, schemes, and scores like a fiddler’s elbow, and even made national headlines on false kidnapping charges.
On Nov. 26, 1978, Doc absconded with his longtime sweetheart, the daughter of former Massachusetts Attorney General Francis X Bellotti. Bellotti filed kidnapping charges, even though it was a consensual rendezvous. Officials chided the ex-AG for using his office to carry out a “personal vendetta.”
But Doc had several other default warrants, court date no-shows, and almost 20 drug-related charges from separate cases.
In 1982, Doc broke out of Plymouth County with three other prisoners who took turns cutting the bars with a hacksaw and covering up their progress with chewing gum and shoe polish. They bent the bars and crawled through a one square-foot hole to the roof, jumped 15 feet to the ground, then scaled a 20-foot chain link fence tipped with razor wire.
They each enjoyed a few brief breaths of free air. Some managed to make it all the way to Maine before the deputies rounded them up.
Doc got three to five years for the escape attempt, on top of an eight-to-10 year sentence slapped on him for a pharmacy heist. During this stay, he befriended an oddly polite ex-international emissary named “Charlie,” who was clinked up indefinitely on seemingly non-existent charges.
“He was charismatic and convincing,” Doc said of his old jailmate in 2021.
Considering the similarities between “Charlie’s escape” and his own ill-fated attempt, the deputies knocked Doc around to see if they could properly dislodge some useful information.
“The cops put me through hell trying to figure out what I knew,” Doc recalled.
“I really didn’t know much. Just that he was talking about Liberia. Most of the guys in lockup would roll their eyes, nod their heads, and chuckle because they had no idea where that was or what the hell he was talking about. The more we listened, the more we realized that he was for real.”
Now in his seventies, Doc prefers the quiet life with his family, but his story could have gone in a different direction. He said Taylor invited him to be a battlefield medic, and then to become his personal physician in Monrovia once the revolution was complete.
“He asked if I wanted to go over there with him and have some kind of official position,” Doc said.
“I told him I was honored, but I had other business to attend to here.”
Despite the squeeze and overcrowding, Charles Taylor was reportedly quite comfortable among the hard-nosed cons, low-level hoods, and upper brass alike.
Anges Reeves recalled visiting her future husband—and future commanding officer—locked in a “reformatory resort,” complete with guards who brought him everything from African newspapers to cigars.
“It didn’t seem like a prison,” she said.
“It was just a big room with Taylor sitting openly with others. They treated him like a superstar.”
Taylor boasted of his luxurious indefinite detention.
“The minimum security facility of that jail, you have people who were about to get out, they go and work in the fields, come in, go out,” he told the International Criminal Court.
“Within the building you have to walk from maximum security through so many gates to get into minimum and the minimum side of the jail is really minimum. Low walls. People walk out and do what they have to do.”