Instructions for March 1978

The Jonestown leadership periodically typed up instructions for Jonestown residents. The lists had several purposes. Some, such as the ongoing list kept by Penny Dupont after a meeting of March 17, 1978, recorded statements made during the community’s periodic meetings. Others, such as the Instructions for October 1978, were specifically oriented towards a particular event, such as the arrival of reporters or non-Temple visitors.

The Dupont list reveals much about the increasingly spartan conditions within Jonestown, even if many of the commands are without context. The New Brigade – the work force to which dissenters, trouble-makers and miscreants were assigned – is mentioned no fewer than 25 times, and the point that each additional infraction will result in an additional three days is included several times. The scarcity of food has become a concern, and is discussed several times. Medical supplies are also running short, and there are repeated instructions on who is to receive what kind of attention.

Most of the instructions in this list are general, that is, to the community at large. The requests for such items as new radio, flame throwers,  electrical equipment and a new boat are issued in general terms, but in each case are likely directed to a committee or a single person. Fewer than ten percent of the 161 items are directed at individuals.

Even without a context, though, some of the instructions reveal a deteriorating community, or at least deterioration in its leadership. “Keep Ken Norton under medical observation,” says instruction 97. “Barb Walker is to be kept in ‘no capacity’… Keep her under control in the infirmary,” says instruction 160. “Medical team is to see how authentic Willetta’s illness is,” says instruction 69.

Instructions for March 1978, RYMUR 89-4286-EE-1-S, pp. 46-52
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Last modified on October 22nd, 2013.
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