When the territory of Alabama was admitted to the Union in 1819, and for several decades afterward, the young
state of Alabama did not have a prison system. Surprisingly, especially when contrasted with today's way of
thinking, the people of the 1820's and 1830's did not want a prison system. As a general rule of the early
Alabama frontiersmen, the administration of justice was best left in the hands of the local citizens, or when
available, with county officials. Even in the county seats, justice was swift and harsh, as the towns vindictively
encouraged their sheriffs to stage hangings in the public square. These festive spectacles attracted large crowds
from miles around, eager for the entertainment atmosphere created by the settlement's merchants. Floggings,
branding, and other mutilation and humiliation punitive events were also made public. Hanging offenses included
murder, rape, robbery, burglary, stealing slaves, rustling livestock, counterfeiting, and treason.
Credited by some historians as being the Father of Alabama Corrections, Governor John Gayle repeatedly tried
during 1831 through 1834 to introduce legislation that would create a more civilized criminal code that included a
state penitentiary system. Fearful of state government encroachment, the "home rule counties preferred their brand
of justice," and resisted the state's efforts to develop a penitentiary system until January 26, 1839. Then, under
Governor Arthur P. Bagby, the State Legislature enacted a criminal code that authorized a state penitentiary system.
By August 21, 1839, after seeking a location that was central to Alabama, property for a prison was purchased
adjacent to the Coosa River near Wetumpka. In October of that year, Governor Bagby laid the cornerstone of the
Wetumpka State Penitentiary and by 1841 the 208 cell prison surrounded by walls twenty-five feet high was completed
at a cost of $84,889.
The organizational structure of the penitentiary system had a warden over the prison's operation, three Inspectors
of the Penitentiary (IP) who had general control over state and county convicts, and who operated directly under the
Governor. During November of 1841, Governor Benjamin Fitspatrick appointed John Watson, J. M. Armstrong, and S. S.
Simmons to be Inspectors of the Penitentiary. William Hogan was selected to be Alabama's first prison warden.
The first inmate entered the Wetumpka State Penitentiary (WSP) in 1842 with a twenty year sentence for harboring a
runaway slave. WSP was called "The Walls of Alabama" or more diminutively as the "Walls." Once established, the
prison population during this period was composed of white immigrants (99%) and free blacks (1%). The laws of the
time said that enslaved blacks had no freedom to infringe upon, and were thus punished extralegally by their owners
for alleged offenses.
The prison was supposed to have operated self-sufficiently from the tax-payer's support but failed decisively.
The prison industry of hand manufacturing of wagons and buggies, saddles and harnesses, shoes, and rope did not
produce the capital necessary for self-sufficiency. This disappointing drain on the tax coffers did not go unnoticed
by the "home rule" public.
On February 4, 1846, an act was passed which permitted private individuals to lease WSP's facilities and convicts.
J. G. Graham became the first private sector contract warden. In 1850 the first female convict was admitted after
receiving a ten year sentence for murder, and she was kept in virtual solitary confinement in a single room of the
In 1862, private sector warden Dr. Ambrose Burrows was killed by a convict and the state resumed control of the
prison with Dr. M. G. Moore as warden. Warden Moore used the convict labor for the war effort making wagon wheels
and caissons, paying into the State Treasury about $80,000 Confederate dollars. Except for a few hardened criminals,
most convicts were pardoned for the war. In the spring of 1865, the Federal Troops released all convicts, except one
who remained voluntarily at the Walls.
In 1866, under the Reconstructionist Republican Governor Robert M. Patton, laws were enacted which permitted the
convicts to be leased outside the prison facilities. The convict contracting system proved to be especially
profitable in rebuilding the war-ravaged railroad system. On July 5, 1866, Baker Kyle was appointed as an
Inspector of the Penitentiary and became Alabama's first high ranking black prison official.The convict population
had also changed from the previous 99% white to the postwar 90% black.
In 1873, the 2,000 acre Williams Plantation was puchased for $50,000. Located on the Tallapoosa River, the
Penitentiary Farm was later to be known as Number Four Prison, Number Four Spot, and finally as Red Eagle Honor
With the completion of rebuilding the rail system, leasing convict labor was turned toward developing Alabama's
industrial expansion in mining of coal and iron, and in timber and turpentine production. Legislation was also
enacted requiring better care and treatment of convicts in response to many reports of cruelty and barbarism.
On February 17, 1885, the Coleman Law made changes to the prison system. The main office was moved from Wetumpka
to the State Capitol in Montgomery, giving greater political visibility to the prison administration. In addition,
the positions of the IP's and warden were abolished and a new organizational hierarchy established which consisted
of a Board of Inspectors of Convicts (BIC) with the Board President being the warden. The BIC had control of
approximately 500 state convicts and all county convicts.
In addition, on February 28, 1887, the efforts of Julia Tutwiler, "The Angel of the Stockades," were realized
when contractors were required to provide suitable room and furniture for schools. Julia Tutwiler had traveled to the
remote prison camps throughout Alabama ministering to the convicts and teaching them to read so they would be better
citizens upon their eventual release.
On February 14, 1893, the Board of Managers (BOM) was created under a "New System" law. The New System provided
for the termination of all contracts with private companies, and that the convicts were to be transferred to a state
prison. Since new prisons would be needed to house the returning convicts, the law stipulated that a prison
reformatory was to be built for convicts under 16 and for housing female convicts.
The BOM purchased a 4,058 acre tract around Speigner Station on the L&N Railroad and started construction on
#2 Camp and #3 Camp. Completed on January 17, 1894, #2 and #3 Camps were located across from each other on Mortar
Creek and were used for making bricks for the larger main prison. Speigner became the prison reformatory for male
convicts 10 through 16 years of age and for all females. The women and boys earned their keep by working in the
prison-owned Alabama Cotton Mill. This mill was powered by a hydro-electric dam built across Mortar Creek, which
created Speigner Lake.
On August 31, 1894, there were 1,577 state and 899 county convicts for a total of 2,476 prisoners. Of these, a
mere 605 convicts were in state prisons under state control with the majority of the convicts housed in the privately-
owned mining prisons. By February 1895 the deadline for removing the convicts from the mines passed without being met.
Consequently, the New System and BOM law was repealed and leasing to the private sector was allowed to continue.
However, the Alabama prison system had grown into the Wetumpka State Penitentiary, the Speigner Station
Reformatory, the Alabama Cotton Mill, #2, #3, and #4 Camps. This growth was short lived with the reemphasis on
leasing convicts and profit making from coal mining, saw mills, and turpentine stills. By 1897, #2 and #3 Camps were
vacated and dismantled, and the cotton mill deteriorated in idleness.
During the period 1900 through 1920, a few bright spots in the convict's work day surfaced. For example, convicts
were permitted to earn extra money for their families by mining extra coal beyond their set quotas. One chaplain,
W. D. Hubbard, helped brighten the convict's lives by placing books in the prison camps, encouraging athletics, harmless
vaudeville and simple amusements. In 1918 the telephone system was installed between #4 Camp, Wetumpka Prison, and
On September 30, 1919, the BIC was abolished and the Board of Control and Economy (BCE) was established. In 1922
and 1923 the BCE constructed and opened Kilby Prison, a modern walled prison located on 2,550 acres four miles north
of the State Capitol at a cost of $2,250,000. With 27 acres enclosed by a 20 foot high reinforced concrete wall, the
prison had a capacity of 900 convicts. The facility also had a hospital, power plant, laundry, kitchen and dining halls,
showers, and many amenities taken for granted in today's prisons. The main cell block had five floors with the top floor
having single cells complete with private toilets and lavatories. Outside the walls were thirty or more bungalows for the
officials and employees. A hotel was available for employees with families. Kilby worked inmates in a modern cotton mill
and shirt factory, and in a large farming operation containing dairy and beef cattle, swine production, and vegetable and
In 1923 the BCE was abolished and the Board of Convict Supervisors was created; however, the name was subsequently
changed to the Board of Administration (BOA). The Convict Department came under the direct supervision of the BOA.
Legislation also passed in 1923 which made it unlawful "for any person to lease or let for hire any state convict to any
person, firm, or corporation." However, since there were not sufficient beds in the prison system to house the leased
convicts, even with the addition of Kilby, the BOA-CD leased the mines and private prison camps instead and were thus
able to house and continue working the convicts in the "state operated" mines.
Also the 1923 legislation provided for state-performed executions by electrocution in a room provided at Kilby. Up to
that time, each county had conducted hangings held in private gallows instead of the public hangings of the frontier past.
A convict, Ed Mason, built the electric chair, "Yellow Mama" for Kilby's death row.
In 1926 the average total prison population was 3,000 convicts. The BOA-CD had eight prisons: Wetumpka, Speigner,
#4 Camp, and Kilby were state-owned prisons; whereas River Falls, Aldrich, Banner, and Flat Top were state-leased mining
prisons. A farming prison known as #5 Camp (and also as Buyck's Farm), located several miles north of Wetumpka, was sold
that year. Remnants of this hand-hewn wood timbered prison still exists today several miles from the present Tutwiler
On April 8, 1927, the "Yellow Mama" was used for the first execution conducted in Alabama by electrocution.
In 1927 the BOA-CD removed all the white convicts from the mines and placed them in Kilby's and Speigner's cotton mills
working a double shift. Convicts also started working under contract with the Highway Department on June 1, 1927, the
beginning of the road camp era. Providing supervision to the convict labor used in constructing a system of state and
national roadways, the Highway Department paid $2 a day per convict. Each road camp consisted of multiple WWI Army styled
barracks for convict housing, kitchen and mess hall, hospital and administration, all enclosed inside a barbed wire fence.
Several camps were completely portable and moved as the highway construction area moved. The eighteen road camps had a
combined capacity of 1,500 convicts and were scattered throughout the state at Littleton, Lineville, Hackleburg, Hedonia,
Mobile County, wilsonville, Oxford, Arab, Samson, Piedmont, Alexander City, Whatley, Stapleton, Leeds, Banks, Clarke
County Gravel Camp, Montgomery County Paving Camp, and Mobile County Paving Camp.
On March 13, 1928, a 3,600 acre farm in Escambia County was purchased and Moffett State Farm was built to receive the
final movement of convicts from the mines on June 30, 1928. Similar to road camp construction, Moffett had wood-framed
barracks with concrete foundations with baths and toilets on each wing. More land was purchased for a total of 8,360
acres, and Moffett, also referred to as the Atmore Prison Farm, became a demonstration farm for the state. Buildings
were also constructed for the wardens and guards; a cold storage plant, a canning plant, and a 42 mile railroad. The
total cost of Moffett State Farm was $452,544.90 with a capacity of 850 convicts. Provisions were also made for showing
movies, radios, baseball and football outfits, and other amusement/recreation facilities.
On January 23, 1931, a fire destroyed a portion of Wetumpka Prison, and within forty days it was fully functional
again. Wetumpka was co-correctional, housing both male and female convicts in segregated quarters, a practice that both
Kilby and Speigner did for certain tasks.
On November 28, 1932 a fire destroyed the prison at Speigner. The Speigner cotton mill was kept in full operation by
transporting the temporarily housed convicts daily between Wetumpka Prison and the mill. On December 26, 1932, temporary
buildings were completed and the prisoners were moved back to Speigner.
Changes were made in the wearing of inmate uniforms to reflect an inmate's classification. The better inmates were
Class A and B inmates and wore brown clothing, whereas Class C inmates wore stripes. Inmates working in the kitchen,
hospitals, or offices wore white uniforms.
On January 19, 1934, the Hawes-Cooper Law became effective, creating a boycott on prison-made goods. This adversely
affected the sales of prison produced items and the underwear and shirt factories were closed. Also during 1934,
a central warehouse was established at Kilby to handle the great variety of supplies used by the prison system.
By 1937, the wooden prison that been hastily built at Speigner was in advance stages of decay. In February 1939,
a new prison built to replace Speigner was completed. The 600 bed facility was named Draper after Hamp Draper, the
Director of the BOA-CD. Draper cost $169,497.95 to construct and equip.
In 1939 the BOA was abolished and the Department of Corrections and Insitution (DCI) was created.
In 1941 Draper was made to be a model prison reformatory for first offenders. Considered innovative, this included
establishing vocational classes equipped to teach trade crafts to inmates. In contrast, #4 Camp was used strictly for
farming with county misdemeanants. Atmore Prison Farm conducted statewide agriculture experiments raising silkworms
in mulberry trees for silk production in addition to distributing several million kudzu plants to farmers for erosion
The Wetumpka Prison was used primarily for female convicts and its name was changed to Julia Tutwiler Prison. In
July of 1941, a beauty parlor was completed for vocational education and rehabilitative purposes. Female inmates were
also taught craft trades such as weaving rugs, drapes, and bedspreads.
The State Cattle Ranch was completed in 1941. The 4,680 acre ranch had barracks for 50 convicts that maintained a
herd of 1,200 cattle.
In December of 1942, the current Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women was completed for a cost of $350,000 and had a
capacity for 400 convicts. Tutwiler was built with inmate labor and had five cellblocks for black prisoners and two
cellblocks for white prisoners, and separate dining halls. Miss Nell Farrar was the first female warden, heading a
complete staff of women which was a first in the nation. The practice of keeping males and females at the same
facility ended with the opening of the new Tutwiler Prison. The old Wetumpka Prison decreased in use and the property
was sold in small parcels starting in 1945. One decayed building of the old prison remains today in Wetumpka.
On February 11, 1949, a fire burned Atmore Prison. By September 1950 a temporary barracks and hospital had been
built and a modern prison was under construction. However, because of a lack of appropriations, it was 1955 before
the new 852 capacity Atmore (later named Fountain) was completed at a cost of $850,000.
In 1950, the 450 acre Speigner Lake was opened to Draper inmates for swimming and fishing. The Speigner Cotton Mill
was sold in 1952 and the building was used by Draper for manufacturing mattresses and brooms, and shops for printing,
bed repair, shoes, and carpentry.
DCI was abolished in 1952 and a five-member Board of Corrections (BOC) was established. Board members were appointed
by the Governor to serve staggered terms of ten years each. Among themselves, the members elected a chairman each year.
Among themselves, the members elected a chairman each year. They also appointed a Commissioner who administered the
statewide prison system with the assistance of three deputy commissioners. Also in 1952, corporal punishment by the lash
A list of prisons and camps were Atmore, Draper, Tutwiler, Kilby and #4, the Cattle Ranch, and Camps Alexander City,
Andalusia, Auburn, Camden, Chatom, Childersburg, Cullman, Decatur, Dothan, Eight Mile, Enterprise, Evergreen, Fayette,
Florence, Gadsden, Greenville, Grove Hill, Guntersville, Hamilton, Heflin, Livingston, Loxley, Maplesville, Portable #1,
Russellville, Scottsboro, Selma, Thomason, Troy, Tuscaloosa, and Union Springs.
In 1953, supervision of the road camps was transferred from the State Highway Department to the Board of Corrections
(BOC), however, the Highway Department retained authority for operations. In addition, the BOC was mandated with
inspecting all county jails and those municipal jails of cities with populations of ten thousand or more people.
On September 30, 1954, there were a total of 5,004 state and county inmates on hand. Officers were paid a minimum
salary of $156 per month and it had been recommended that the work week be reduced to 48 hours from 60 hours a week.
In 1960, Kilby Trusty Barracks was completed and had a capacity of 400 inmates. Other construction included most of
the road camps' wood framed buildings that were being replaced with modern concrete building that had indoor plumbing
within the dormitories. Designed by the BOC, the typical capacity of a camp was 80 inmates, with the perimeter
surrounded by a ten foot high wire fence with two towers overlooking the complex. Each camp had an infirmary for minor
illnesses. The BOC received $55.90 per month per inmate from the Highway Department for inmate maintenance. The
correctional officers during this time were paid $222 per month for a 48 hour work week.
Kilby Prison had become outdated and archaic without adequate inmate facilities, and the foundation and walls were
cracking beyond repair. Originally on the outskirts of Montgomery, much of the prison property was being surrounded by a
growing urban population. Commissioner Frank Lee recommended that Kilby and the surrounding farm acreage be sold and new
facilities be constructed with the proceeds.
On June 24, 1964, the Frank Lee Youth Center was opened to house male offenders 21 or younger with a sentence of less
than 10 years. The center had a capacity of 104 inmates.
In 1965, the death sentence process was declared unconstitutional and executions were stopped. In 1966, J. F. Ingram
Vocational School was opened adjacent to the Frank Lee Youth Center. Trades that were taught included body repair, auto
mechanics, brick masonry, upholstery, cabinet-making, and welding.
As planned in response to Kilby Prison's continued deterioration, the Main Office moved to 101 South Union during
Thanksgiving week of November 1968. To accommodate the inmates, during November of 1969, Holman Prison was completed.
Named after William C. Holman, a former warden at Kilby, the maximum security unit housed all death row inmates and was
designated by statute to be the location for all electrocutions. Then, in January of 1970, the Mt. Meigs Medical and
Diagnostic Center (now know as Kilby) was opened. On January 21, 1970, all inmates had been removed for the inadequate
and unserviceable Kilby Prison.
On April 3, 1972, Draper Pre-Release Center opened on Speigner Lake and began the current day work release program,
starting with 7 employees supervising 23 male inmates and 2 females from Tutwiler. In June of 1972, #4 Camp was reopened
as an honor camp to further expand the work release program (using converted chicken houses for barracks) and to reinitiate
farming operations. The camp had been closed after Kilby's prisoners had been reassigned and the BOC had stopped housing
county misdemeanants. During this same period, 27 road camps closed leaving five in operation at Hamilton, Hollis, Troy,
Grove Hill, and Elba. These closings created a tremendous overcrowded situation.
On July 31, 1972, a furlough program began which allowed selected inmates to have family sponsored visits at home. In
December of 1972, the Atmore Work Release Center opened to expand the program in south Alabama.
In 1974, both the Alexander City and Childersburg Work Release Centers were opened coinciding with the closing of the
last road camp.
In May of 1975, the Wetumpka Work Release Center for female inmates was opened.
On January 14, 1976, U. S. District Judge Frank Johnson Jr., placed the BOC under federal court order, ordering sweeping
prison reforms under the Newman-Pugh-James joint cases. Responding in part to the overcrowded conditions, in March of 1976
work release centers were opened at Camden, Grove Hill, and Montgomery. Later in June, Elba was opened. Then in July,
Hamiliton Work Release Center was opened.
During April of 1977, work release centers were opened in Mobile and in Loxley. The Mobile Center, however, was relocated
to Pritchard during May of 1978. A month later in June, a new prison, Staton Correctional Facility was completed and became
On October 1, 1979, the BOC was abolished and the governor was authorized to appoint a commissioner who had overall control
of the prison system.
In 1980 the Basic Training Academy at Selma became operational and implemented the first approved correctional minimum
standard training required by statute. This eliminated the need for correctional officers to attend mandatory police minimum
standard training. Also during August of 1980, the Brookley Work Release Center was opened in Mobile to meet the needs of the
Mobile and south Alabama area.
During May of 1981, the Decatur Work Release Center was opened. On June 24, 1981, the site of the Hamilton Work Release
Center was closed and moved to a newer, larger facility located in the same city. This shared facility also housed aged and
infirmed inmates, creating the Hamilton Work Release/Aged & Infirmed Center. In November of 1981, the Staton Annex (later
named Elmore Correctional Facility) was opened.
On November 1, 1982, the West Jefferson Correctional Facility (later named Donaldson CF) was opened.
On February 3, 1983, the Department of Corrections (DOC) was established by statute.
On April 22, 1983, the first execution since 1965 was conducted.
Also in April, the non-residential Supervised Intensice Restitution (SIR) program became operational by using the finances
gained from closing the work release centers at Loxley, Grove Hill, and Childersburg. On June 1, 1983, the St. Clair Correctional
Facility was opened.
East Thomas Community Based Facility opened during April 1984, and on August 9, 1984, the Fountain Trusty Barracks was
completed and opened. Later, on October 22, 1984, the Limestone Correctional Facility was opened.
On August 10, 1985, the old Hamilton Work Release Center was reopened and the work release inmates from the Hamilton WR/A&I
reassigned. This created needed bed space for the expanding aged and/or infirmed sub-population segment of the total inmate
The Bullock Correctional Facility opened in April 1987, and soon after began operating the state’s first sex offender treatment program.
During September 1988, the boot camp program was initiated at Kilby CF but was later moved to its current location in Childersburg.
Approximately a year later in October 1989, the Main Office at 101 South Union was closed and all central office functions scattered
in Montgomery were consolidated together in the Gordon Persons Building at 50 North Ripley Street.
1990 was a particularly expansive year with Easterling Correctional Facility opening in March, Ventress CF in August which became
the first prison dedicated to drug treatment, Loxley Community Work Center in October, and Childersburg Boot Camp & Community
Work Center in November.
During January 1996, the General Office relocated from the Persons Building to renovated office space at 1400 Lloyd Street. At the
same time, the Main Office reclaimed its previous 101 South Union Street facility.
During May 1998, the Bibb Correctional Facility opened.
Today's Department offers employees ample career opportunities and advancements in corrections and other related fields. No longer
a small organization, the Department has grown into a medium-size correctional system employing over 3,400 employees with an inmate
population approaching 26,000+ prisoners. In the years to come, the Department will continue to grow in size, and in complexity of
services, offering many long-term opportunities to its employees.