Gender, Race, & EthnicityThe Bertillon system, at least as it was applied in these Ohio penal institutions, often reveals the inherent biases and ignorance of both the creators of the form blanks as well as the Bertillon officers recording the measurements. Three fields on the form, namely “Nativity” and “Complexion,” as seen on the front of the cards, and “Color,” as seen on the back, were used fluidly to identify race and ethnicity in confusing and often derogatory manners. This pattern can be observed particularly in the Bertillon cards of Native American and African American inmates.
Prisoners identified as female were held in much smaller numbers than men, and only at the Ohio Penitentiary. These women were held in a separate building from the men, but they were measured similarly. However, it seems that their measurements were kept somewhat more private and they were not photographed as thoroughly.