West Virginia State Penitentiary
Besides working on the construction of their home, the inmates had other jobs to do in support of the prison. In the early 1900s some industries within the prison walls included a carpentry shop, a paint shop, a wagon shop, a stone yard, a brickyard, a blacksmith, a tailor, a bakery, and a hospital. At the same time, revenue from the prison farm and inmate labor helped the prison financially. It was virtually self-sufficient. A prison coal mine located a mile away opened in 1921. This mine helped serve some of the prison's energy needs and saved the state an estimated $14,000 a year. Construction on a school and library was completed in 1900 to help reform and educate inmates.
In 1929, the state decided to double the size of the penitentiary because overcrowding was a problem. The 5 x 7-foot cells were too small to hold three prisoners at a time, but until the expansion there was no other option. Two prisoners would sleep in the bunks with the third sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The state utilized prison labor once again and completed this phase of construction in 1959.
On November 7, 1979, fifteen prisoners escaped from the prison, and on January 1, 1986, one of the most infamous riots in recent history occurred.
The fate of the prison was sealed in a 1986 ruling by the West Virginia Supreme Court which stated that the 5 x 7-foot cells were cruel and unusual punishment. Within nine years, the West Virginia State Penitentiary was closed as a prison.
Tours and ghost related events are offered throughout the warmer months of the year. Visit http://www.wvpentours.com/ for more information.