Washington State Penitentiary records, 1886-2009  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Washington State Penitentiary
Title
Washington State Penitentiary records
Dates
1886-2009 (inclusive)
Quantity
11.4 linear feet, (8 boxes and 15 scrapbooks )
Collection Number
WCMss.057
Summary
The Washington State Penitentiary was established in 1887 in Walla Walla, WA as Washington Territory's first prison. This collection contains publications, reports, photographs, scrapbooks and oral history interviews that document the life and administration at the penitentiary.
Repository
Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Penrose Library, Room 130
345 Boyer Avenue
Walla Walla, WA
99362
Telephone: 509-527-5922
Fax: 509-526-4785
archives@whitman.edu
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Languages
English


Historical NoteReturn to Top

In 1874, the Washington Territory legislature passed a bill which transferred all individuals convicted of felonies into a prison run by private contractors. The prison was built in Bucoda, WA, formerly known as Seatco, and in exchange for housing the men, the contractors were allowed to use them as unpaid laborers. As news of the poor conditions and abuse that occurred in the prison began to circulate, a growing public outcry led the territorial legislature to begin building Washington Territory's first prison. In 1886, lawmakers appropriated 96,000 dollars for the purchase of land and the construction of the buildings in Walla Walla, WA. The first prisoners arrived at the new penitentiary in 1887, and by 1901 it was designated as Washington State's maximum-security institution.

Throughout the first half of the twentieth-century, the Washington State Penitentiary was severely overcrowded, and prisoners were often confined in small steel cells all day. The inhumane conditions were frequently covered in the media, and contributed to several destructive riots. In February, 1957, Bobby J. Rhay became the warden of the Walla Walla Penitentiary. Following a series of reforms mandated by Governor Daniel J. Evans and Director of Institutions, Dr. William Conte between 1969 and 1970, Rhay worked to enact changes that radically transformed life at the penitentiary. Some of the reforms included the end of mail censorship, the right for prisoners to dress in their own clothes, fair hearings for rule infractions, and an elected inmate council that had a voice in the governance of the institution. The Walla Walla Penitentiary received national attention for these radical and experimental reforms. In the early 1980s, increasing violence among prisoners and guards, combined with changing philosophies about the purpose of incarceration, resulted in an end to the reforms.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection includes publications, administrative records, photographs, scrapbooks and oral history interviews from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. Many of the publications were created by inmates and correctional officers, and they document their experiences living and working in the Washington State Penitentiary. Administrative records contain reports and evaluations of the penitentiary, theater and variety programs put on by the inmates and handbook and employee guides. The collection also includes newspaper clippings and magazine articles that document the Washington State Penitentiary.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

1:  Publications, 1895-2009Return to Top

4.50 linear feet
This series is divided into two subseries.
Container(s) Description Dates
1: Washington State Penitentiary publications
This series contains publications written by and for inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary. They often feature news from different departments, updates from sporting events, poetry, fiction and opinion pieces. This series also contains cartoons published by a correctional officer and The Communique, which was the official newsletter for correctional officers.
1913-2009
Box Folder
1 1
Agenda
1926, 1931-1932
1 2
Agenda
1932
1 3-4
Agenda
1933
1 5-6
Agenda
1934
1 7
Agenda
1935
1 8
Agenda
1935-1936
1 9
Agenda
1936-1937
1 10
Agenda
1937-1938
2 1
Agenda
1955
2 2
Agenda
1956
2 3
Agenda
1957
2 4
Agenda
1958
2 5
Agenda
1959
2 6
Agenda
1960
2 7-8
Agenda
1961
2 9-10
Agenda
1962
2 11-12
Agenda
1963
2 13
Agenda
1964
2 14
The Communique
1999-2001
2 15
The Communique
2001-2002
2 16
The Communique
2002-2003
2 17
The Communique
2003-2006
3 1
Ed Meiser cartoon sketches
1991-1992
3 2
It's Happening at WSP
1974
3 3
It's Happening at WSP
1975
3 4
Lifers with Hope Newsletter
1974
3 5
Our View Point
1913-1914
3 6
Our View Point
1913-1915
3 7
Our View Point
1915-1916
3 8
Our View Point
1916-1917
3 9-10
Outlook
1952
3 11-12
Outlook
1953
3 13
Outlook
1954
3 14
Outlook
1954-1955
3 15
Under the Gun
1979
3 16
Voice of Prison
1971-1972
3 17
Voice of Prison
1972
3 18
Voice of Prison
1973-1974
3 19
Voice of Prison
1975-1976
3 20
Voice of Prison
1976-1978
3 21
Whisperer
1990
3 22
Whisperer
1991-1992
3 23
Whisperer
1993-1994
3 24
Whisperer
1994-1995
3 25
Whisperer
1996-1997
4 1
Whisperer
1997-1998
4 2
Whisperer
1998-2000
4 3
Whisperer
2000-2001
4 4
Whisperer
2001-2003
4 5
Whisperer
2003-2004
4 6
Whisperer
2005-2007
4 7
Whisperer
2007-2009
4 8
Whisperer
2007-2009
2: Newspaper and magazine articles
This series contains newspaper and magazine articles that contain information about the Washington State Penitentiary.
1885-1998
Box Folder
4 9
American Detective, "Inside Story of Walla Walla Prison Break"
1934 May
4 10
Life Magazine, "Inside a Tough Prison: Walla Walla's Radical Reforms"
1972 September 08
4 11
Life Magazine, "Prison Without Stripes"
1979 August
4 12
Newspaper clippings
1885-1972
4 13
Newspaper clippings
1972 July-1972 December
4 14
Newspaper clippings
1973
4 15
Newspaper clippings
1974-1975
4 16
Newspaper clippings
1975 July-1975 December
4 17
Newspaper clippings
1976 January-1976 June
4 18
Newspaper clippings
1976 July-1976 December
4 19
Newspaper clippings
1977 January-1977 June
5 1
Newspaper clippings
1977 July-1977 December
5 2
Newspaper clippings
1978
5 3
Newspaper clippings
1979 January-1979 June
5 4
Newspaper clippings
1979 July-1979 December
5 5
Newspaper clippings
1980
5 6
Newspaper clippings
1981
5 7
Newspaper clippings
1982-1993
6 1
Newspaper clippings
1994-1998
6 2
Western Correctional Association Newsletter
1951

2:  Records, 1886-1999Return to Top

0.25 linear feet

This series contains administrative records of the Washington State Penitentiary. It includes annual reports and evaluations from administrators, employee handbooks and correspondence. Also included are records related to theater and variety programs put on by the inmates.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 3
A Philosophy of Corrections
1969 December 03
6 4
A Review of the Washington State Penitentiary
1886-1939
6 5
Annual report of the penitentiary commissioners
1890
6 6
Correspondence
1893-1999
6 7
General custodial orders
1954
6 8
Handbook for the employees of Washington State Penitentiary
circa 1950
6 9
Predicting supervision outcome for adult offenders report
circa 1964
6 10
Record of the Honorary Board of Inspectors of the Territorial Penitentiary of Walla Walla
1887
6 11
Report of the building commissioners of the Penitentiary
1887
6 12
Second annual report of the State Penitentiary
1892
6 13
Third annual report of the State Penitentiary
1893
6 14
Fifth annual report of the State Penitentiary
1894
6 15
Sixth annual report of the State Penitentiary
1895
6 16
Eighth annual report of the State Penitentiary
1897
6 17
Superintendent's report
1887
6 18
Supplemental report of the prison commissioners
1891
6 20
Washington State Penitentiary history pamphlet
1955

3:  Audiovisual materials, 1890-1999Return to Top

7.0 linear feet

This series contains photographs that document the buildings and grounds of the Washington State Penitentiary, as well as the activities of inmates and penitentiary employees. Also included are audio taped interviews from employees and an inmate of the penitentiary, and scrapbooks created by B.J. Rhay during his time as a warden.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box case
8 1
Interview with Washington State Penitentiary warden, B.J. Rhay and reverend, James Cummins
1972 March 01
8 2
Interview with Washington State Penitentiary inmate, Jerry Adams and librarian, Jack Brown
1973 January 09
8 3
Interview with Washington State Penitentiary gardener, Walter Nelson
1982 November 23
8 4
Interview with Washington State Penitentiary guard, Otis Lathrop
1986 April 03
8 5
Interview with Washington State Penitentiary warden, Robert Freeman
1999 March 31
Folder
Photographs
approximately 1890-1960
object
1-12
Warden B.J. Rhay's scrapbooks
1957-1977

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top