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Posted: 1504789180000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Cunningham, Moneymaker, Sampson, Chandler
By 1928, the Eddyville penitentiary employed 52 people; 38 of whom were guards. They worked a 12-hour shift, seven days a week and had 14 days off a year. There were then 750 inmates. During this year and 1929, 49 men were executed there. In one night in 1929, seven men were executed in one night.

In 1931, a guard, William L. Moneymaker, was killed by a prisoner with a hatchet. He then took the guard’s pistol and killed himself. Eddyville was so crowded this year that inmates had to sleep on cots in the corridor. To relieve the crowding, a request was made to place some of the convicts in county jails. Governor Flem Sampson pardoned 187 the day before he left office.

1933 was a busy year. Between the two penitentiaries received 2,656 convicts.

Murder or manslaughter was the charge for 27.7% of the prisoners in 1935; Tennessee is the only state with this high a percentage. In this year unruly inmates are put in stripes and chains with weights attached for the duration of their sentence.

Governor Chandler used convicts for the upkeep of county roads. 500 inmates are assigned to this task. Recommendations were made this year to abandon the Kentucky State Reformatory and to modernize the Kentucky State Penitentiary to house hardened inmates. They requested that all inmates be examined by a psychiatrist, the building of a hospital for those insane convicts and other items.

1937 saw the building of the Kentucky State Reformatory at LaGrange County - $3 million dollars. The Kentucky State Reformatory at Frankfort is demolished and is now a state office building. Three inmates at the Kentucky State Penitentiary overpower the Deputy Warden in the dining room; take his gun. Two inmates were killed as they tried to escape and a guard is shot in the leg.

The Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women is built in 1939.

For the remaining years, an abstract.

1945 – 7 prisoners escaped. Population at the Kentucky State Penitentiary is 860.
1950 – prison break attempt when 4 prisoners throw a Molotov Cocktail into a wall tower.
1952 – 1 officer and 10 inmates injured when 75 inmates seize control of the garment factory.
1953 – 6 inmates reach the cellhouse roof and lowered themselves on a rope – all caught within 48 hours.

There are many more details if you check the website:

I would also recommend MOST highly a book entitled Castle by Justice Bill Cunningham. It is the story of the Eddyville Penitentiary by a highly-respected authority. Justice Cunningham is a gifted writer; many names are shown. I follow his blog and he is a man of compassion and deep understanding of penitentiary life. I receive no compensation for recommending the book; it’s just that good.

Finding prisoners on the census records can be difficult and will take a lot of looking! If you can find the prison listed, it will show the employees and then the prisoners. You might have to add a search term such as inmate. However, inmate was also used for children in orphanages! I have not done an extensive search for prisoners but they should be listed.

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