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W.Va. Pen, biennial report, 1916

W.Va. Pen, biennial report, 1916



On July 1, 1914, the beginning of this biennial report, the number of prisoners confined in the penitentiary was 1234. During this period of 24 months 723 have been received from the state courts, 207 have been received from U.S. courts, 7 have been returned for violating pardons and 11 escapes have been returned, 541 have been discharged after completing their sentences, 131 have been released on parole, 161 have received conditional pardons, 5 have been executed, 1 was returned for new trial, 15 have been adjudged insane and transferred to insane asylums -- five of whom have been returned cured -- 21 have escaped from the Road Camps, 25 have died, 15 United States prisoners have been paroled and 8 received pardons, leaving a prison population at the close of this biennial period of 1100. The average population for the biennial period was 1199. The colored population at the close of the period is 429, or 39 per cent., while the who population of the state, according to the U.S. Census of 1910, the colored race was only 5.3 per cent. The number of life prisoners at the close of the period is 169. The number of U.S. prisoners on June 30, 1916, is 138.

Reception of Prisoners.

Upon his arrival at this institution, the prisoner is at once enrolled and given a serial number, and his photograph is taken showing front and side view of the face, and filed with his record. He is then required to bathe, is given a hair cut and shave, dressed in prison uniform and placed in the second grade. This grade is indicated by a plaid suit. If the prisoner's conduct is good for six months, he is promoted to the first grade and clothed in a suit of cadet gray.

Soon after a prisoner arrives and has been received as stated, he is given a careful examination by the prison physician. All defects are noted and a complete record is kept of the examination. He is afterward measured by the prison clerk, in accordance with the Bertillon system. A complete record is made showing his nativity, color, parentage, antecedents, habits, domestic relations, religious affiliations, educational attainments and previous prison record, if any. If the prisoner is able bodied, he is assigned to one of the factories operated within the prison and is required to perform nine hours of labor each day, except Sunday and holidays.


The discipline of this institution, as effecting both employees and inmates, has been steadily improving during this biennial period. With a few exceptions, the conduct of the prisoners has been excellent. More privileges have been granted than ever before. All modes of corporal punishment which heretofore existed -- such as the paddling machine, handcuffing men to cell doors, dungeons, etc. -- were abolished by me on my arrival at the institution, and the only method of punishment existing at this time is the taking of "good time," and for life time prisoners where "good time" cannot be taken, punishment is inflicted by confinement in their own cells for a stipulated time. The discipline of any institution of this kind must necessarily be strict, but at the same time, humane. The rules are easily understood and are not difficult to observe. The substance of all the rules is as follows: That the inmate must attend strictly to his own business, be faithful in his work, keep his cell and person neat and clean, and always act in a quiet and orderly manner. From my own experience I find that men respond more readily to kind treatment than they do to harsh measures, and my work in this institution for the past two years has fully demonstrated this beyond all question of doubt. It has been my aim to appeal to the higher nature of the prisoner and never to humiliate or degrade him. The inmates are accorded more privileges, and the discipline is easier by far, than when I assumed charge of this institution. In lieu of corporal punishment, all inmates now have the privilege of a daily lockout. This lockout permits each prisoner to remain in the yard or corridors within the enclosure for two hours each evening, from 5 to 7 o'clock, and this out-door exercise for two hours each day not only improves the discipline, but has been very beneficial to the health of the inmates. This privilege also affords ample time to develop any musical talent that might exist among the prisoners, along the line of orchestra and band work, and gives ample scope for good, wholesome exercise, such as baseball and other outdoor games. The moving picture shows recently inaugurated also aid materially with the discipline. These picture shows are given twice each week, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and all the inmates are given an opportunity to attend. With the foregoing as a basis, we should develop principles of reformation which will aid the man who has fallen to regain his foothold and to become able to meet the conditions of actual life upon his release from prison.

Discharge of Prisoners.

When a prisoner's term has expired and the day comes for his final discharge, he is given a complete new outfit of citizen's clothes of good material. Transportation is paid him to the county from which he was sent, and in addition to this, if he has no money of his own, he is given a cash allowance of three dollars, and if he has no home to go to, a position is secured for him by the officer in charge of paroles at the institution, who also sees that he is safely placed with his employer.

Comparaatively few prisoners are discharged who do not have money of their own. Under the system of work in the shops, when the prisoner performs more than the allotted task assigned, he is paid by the contractor, at the same rate the state receives for his labor. The prisoners earn for themselves an average of more than $4,000.00 per month, or more than $48,000.00 per year. Many prisoners aid materially in supporting dependent families, and they are encouraged to do so. They are also permitted to purchase from these earnings groceries and various items of clothing once a month. During this biennial period sixteen thousand seven hundred and eight dollars and thirty-one cents ($16,708.31) have been paid prisoners on discharge from this fund, and there is still a balance to their credit of twenty-two thousand four hundred and seventy dollars and seventy-five cents ($22,470.75).

Religious Exercises.

The regular chapel service, lasting one hour, is held every Sunday morning at nine o'clock. This service consists of an organ prelude, singing, scripture reading and prayer, closing with a sermon by the Chaplain. Music is a strong feature of our chapel service. The chapel is supplied with a good pipe organ and piano; Mrs. Emma Moore Scott is the organist, and under the efficient leadership of Mr. Blanchard E. Hiatt, excellent results are obtained in congregational singing. Rev. J. W. Dawson has been the regular Protestant Chaplain during the past year. Rev. F. J. Flanagan has continued looking after those of the Roman Catholic faith with fidelity and attention, and has preached once each month to the entire body of prisoners.

The Sunday School, under the leadership of Mrs. Emma Moore Scott, has continued to grow in interest and attendance. In this work Mrs. Scott has been ably assisted by several well disposed citizens of Moundsville.

The organization known as the Volunteer Prison League, founded by Mrs. Maud Ballington Booth, meets once each month on Sunday afternoon. This is a voluntary organization, with a membership of about 550. At these meetings, interesting programs are rendered and much good is accomplished.

For a more comprehensive and detailed report of the religious features, I herewith submit as a part of my report, the complete report of Rev. J. W. Dawson, Chaplain, with the conclusions drawn as the result of his work.

Prison School.

School is maintained at the penitentiary five evenings in the week from five until seven o'clock during eight months in the year. This school is in charge of Mr. A. L. Boggs, an officer of this institution, who is also the very efficient Superintendent. There are accommodations for about 140 pupils, requiring the services of fifteen teachers. During this biennial period we have been able to secure enough volunteers from among the inmates to perform this teaching. The pupils are selected from those who are most illiterate, and it has been my aim to allow no one to be released from this institution without being taught to read and write, and also to give the rudiments of an education to every prisoner who has not had the advantages of school. In addition to our regular prison school, a number of inmates are taking courses in correspondence schools, perfecting themselves in the higher branches.

With the facilities at our command, every encouragement possible is given for the mental improvement of the prisoners, and many a man who could neither read nor write when he entered this institution, leaves with a fairly good education, equal to that obtained in the lower grades of our public schools.

Prison Labor.

The statutes of our state provide for the contract labor system. Under this system the contracts for labor are awarded to the highest bidders who are considered desirable persons or firms for such purpose, and who operate such industries as are best suited for such labor. During this biennial period one contract has been renewed for the term of five years. The rate on this contract has been increased from sixty-five cents to seventy cents per day; one contractor employing 275 prisoners pays seventy-five cents per day; one contract, calling for 200 prisoners, pays seventy cents per day and one contract calling for 450, pays seventy cents per day. The one calling for 275 prisoners at seventy-five cents per day will expire on the 18th day of September of this year. The different articles manufactured in this prison are men's trousers, shirts, brooms and whips.

From the product of our labor under this system, we have been able to maintain the penitentiary without any cost to the taxpayers of the state, and have also earned and turned over to the State Treasury to the credit of the General Fund, $100,000.00 during this biennial period of twenty-four months. During the two years of my term of office, in addition to maintaining the institution and making the many repairs and improvements other than permanent improvements, there has been a net profit to the state of more than $100,000.00. This exceeds any previous record as shown in he biennial reports by nearly 50 per cent.

In addition to the amounts already paid over to the State Board of Control, there is still due this institution $11,151.08 that has been earned during this biennial period, but unless checks are received at once, the same cannot be shown in this report. The permanent improvements that have been made and paid for during my administration are as follows:

Two gas engines at a cost of about $8,000.00
Two new boilers at a cost of about $3,200.00
Reinforced concrete floor in boiler room $1,500.00
Tubercular hospital $4,000.00
Two brick toilet room $2,000.00
Farm house $3,400.00
Heating plant $5,000.00
Automobile truck $2,600.00

making a total amount of $31,100.00 expended for permanent improvements. All other expenses, such as laying the water main from the city to the farm, putting new roofs on the halls and factory buildings, etc., come under the head of regular repairs and improvements and are taken care of with our regular monthly bills.

It is not my intention as an individual or as a prison official to say anything either for or against the system of contract labor, but in order to maintain discipline it is necessary that the mind of the inmates be employed, and the firs t and prime requisite is a proper labor system that calls for a reasonable amount of satisfactory, productive, remunerative labor from every prisoner fit to labor. There is nothing more harmful to a prisoner -- to any human being -- than to be kept in idleness, and if we are to remain under the contract system, I would recommend that the legislature of this state amend our present laws so that after the upkeep of this institution is paid, in lieu of turning the surplus earnings into the state treasury to the credit of the state, the same be paid into the state treasury to be credited to a sinking fund to be used by order of the State Board of Control for the sole purpose of helping to support the families of prisoners while they are incarcerated here.

Convicts on Public Roads.

An act of the Legislature of 1913 provides for the employment of convicts from the state penitentiary on the public roads of the state, upon such terms and conditions as may be arranged between the State Board of Control and various county courts desiring such labor.

[Warden White reproduced several pages of rules which we omit]

Pursuant to this act of the Legislature and in compliance with the foregoing rules, three road camps have already been established, two of which are in operation at the present time. Camp No. 1 was located at St. Marys in Pleasants County. By an agreement with the Board of Control and the county court of this county, this camp was discontinued about a year ago.

Camp No. 2 is located at Martinsburg in Berkeley County and is composed of 23 prisoners, 20 of whom are working on the road and the other three are employed about the camp.

Camp No. 3 is located at Dana in Kanawha County and is composed of 28 men, 25 of whom are working on the road and the other three are employed about the camp.

Each camp is furnished with two guards; one who looks after the management of camp and transacts all the business pertaining thereto, and the other officer guards the men while at work. The men thus far placed in road camps are put upon their honor and the guards are unarmed. The county authorities have been pleased with the conduct of the prisoners, but I regret to say that the labor of these prisoners at seventy-five cents per day has been at a loss of over $10,000.00 to the state during my administration, and I strongly recommend, if any additional contracts are made, that in lieu of seventy-five cents per day, we make contract for this labor at $1.25 per day.

Parole Law.

West Virginia was one of the first states in the union to put in operation a parole law. This law has been in force some ten or twelve years, and has been uniformly successful.

During this biennial period the Parole Board considered 435 applications. Of this number 138 applications were recommended to the Governor and the same number paroled by him. During this time 11 have been returned to the penitentiary for violations of their paroles. The total number now on parole is 115. The conduct of over 90 per cent. of the men paroled has been good, fully demonstrating the wisdom and propriety of the parole law.

The operation of this law has also been a great factor towards securing good discipline in the prison, as only those with a good prison record are considered eligible for parole.

Under our law there are two classes of prisoners who are eligible for parole; one class being all those who have received indeterminate sentences and the other class including all those who have received more than the minimum sentence prescribed by law.

Realizing that the provisions of this law are not a fully understood as they should be, I herewith submit as a part of this report the statute under which the parole law is operated, together with the rules and regulations that have been adopted for carrying out its provisions.

[about 4 pages have been omitted]

Federal Prisoners

During this biennial period we have had an average of about 150 Federal prisoners and for their maintenance we receive 30 cents per day for each prisoner. They have been received from four different states; Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia and also from the District of Columbia. Until recently we have been receiving these prisoners here, on account of the overcrowded conditions in the Federal prisons, but an order has been issued by the Department of Justice to discontinue the sending of any Federal prisoners to this institution, and in the next few months these prisoners will either have been discharged or transferred to their own Federal prisons.

[The statistical report and Chaplain's, Postmaster's and Physician's reports are omitted]

from Fourth Biennial Report of the State Board of Control of West Virginia for the period July 1, 1914 to June 30, 1916. Charleston, State of West Virginia, 1916. The report on the W. Va. Penitentiary is in v.1, p.235-274.

Business report of Warden (description of facilities primarily) concludes the biennial report.

|West Virginia Penitentiary


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