Moundsville State Penitentiary

Location: Moundsville, WV

Located in Moundsville, WV the former West Virginia State Penitentiary is defiantly something you would expect to find ghosts in. But that’s not why we visited. We visited this abandoned prison to explore the history of 80 years of some of the worst offenders in the states history.

With construction beginning in 1866, the irony was that the state had prisoners build the jail themselves. It took them 10 years, and a cost of $363,000. It included 224 cells, a kitchen, hospital, and chapel.

Conditions at the prison during the turn of the 20th century were good, according to a warden’s report, which stated that, “both the quantity and the quality of all the purchases of material, food and clothing have been very gradually, but steadily, improved, while the discipline has become more nearly perfect and the exaction of labor less stringent.” Education was a priority for the inmates during this time. They regularly attended class. Construction on a school and library was completed in 1900 to help reform and educate inmates.

Conditions began to deteriorate and eventually made their way onto the United States Department of Justices’ Top Ten Most Violent Correctional Facilities list. In total, 36 homicides took place in the prison during its time. Along with murders, the prison also saw many many riots, and escapes.

From 1899 – 1954 the prison also executed 103 men. 94 by hanging, and 9 by electrocution. Which, the prisoners also built the chair itself.

In 1995, the prison was closed and the prisoners were moved to other facilities. The prison is now available for daily tours.

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