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John Dillinger was an infamous gangster and bank robber during the Great Depression, and was know as "Jackrabbit" and "Public Enemy No. 1."
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He served less than two years of his two to four year sentence, thanks to having a lawyer.
John Dillinger was sent to the Indiana State Reformatory in Pendleton. He played on the prison baseball team and worked in the shirt factory as a seamster. Dillinger's remarkable manual dexterity came into play just as it had during his time at the machine shop. He frequently completed twice his quota in the prison factory, and would secretly help fill other men's quotas. As a result, he made many friends within the prison population. It was at the state reformatory that Dillinger met Harry Pierpont and Homer Van Meter, two men who would someday join Dillinger in his life of crime.
As his prison years went on, Dillinger's wife and family visited him frequently. He often wrote letters to Beryl full of affection, "Dearest, we will be so happy when I can come home to you and chase your sorrows away...For sweetheart, I love you so all I want is to just be with you and make you happy...Write soon and come sooner." But Beryl was not doing well with the separation. She obtained a divorce on June 20, 1929, two days before his birthday. He was devastated and later admitted the event had broken his heart.
Dillinger was dealt a second blow when he was denied parole. He had not been an exemplary prisoner, after having tried to escape a few times. But not seeing he was much responsible for his circumstances, he felt bitter and angry about the denial for parole. In a letter he wrote to his father in October 1933, he confided, "I know I have been a big disappointment to you but I guess I did too much time, for where I went in a carefree boy, I came out bitter toward everything in general... if I had gotten off more leniently when I made my first mistake this would never have happened." He quit the baseball team, one of his few passions, and asked to be sent to Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Dillinger told prison officials it had a better baseball team, but the truth was he wanted to join friends Pierpont and Van Meter who had been transferred there earlier.
John Dillinger found prison life much harsher and disciplined. He was surprised to see so many men his father's age spending the rest of their lives in prison. He became depressed and withdrawn. He didn't join the baseball team, but instead buried himself in his work in the prison shirt factory, producing double his quote to help other inmates.
It was during this time that John Dillinger learned the ropes of crime from seasoned bank robbers. In addition to reconnecting with Pierpont and Van Meter, he became friends with Walter Dietrich who had worked with the notorious Herman Lamm. A former German army officer, Lamm had emigrated to the United States in the late 1800s. He was famous for planning his bank robberies with the precision of a military tactician. Dietrich had studied the man's method well and was a good teacher, instructing his students in how to investigate the layout of a bank, the entries and exits, windows, and the location of the nearest police station.
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