Montana State Prison records,, 1871-1981  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Montana State Prison
Title
Montana State Prison records,
Dates
1871-1981 (inclusive)
Quantity
23 reels of 35 mm. microfilm
Collection Number
SMF 36
Summary
These Montana State Prison records (1871-1981) consist of convict registers, descriptive lists of prisoners, personal descriptions, including name, birth date, physical description, nature of crime, previous convictions, etc. There is a prisoner card index covering the years 1892-2000 in the Archives offices.
Repository
Montana Historical Society, Research Center Archives
Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives
225 North Roberts
PO Box 201201
Helena MT
59620-1201
Telephone: 406-444-2681
Fax: 406-444-5297
mhslibrary@mt.gov
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research

Languages
English
Sponsor
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Representative John N. Rodgers introduced HB Memorial 7 in December 1866 that sought federal funds for a territorial penitentiary in Montana. In January 1867 funding was approved and the penitentiary opened in Deer Lodge in July 1871. It was relinquished to Montana Territory in 1873, and taken over by the federal government once again in 1874. The penitentiary became a state institution in 1889, when Montana achieved statehood.

The state contracted with former prison guard Frank Conley and Colonel Thomas McTague to operate the penitentiary from 1890 to 1908, with Conley as warden. In 1909 the state hired Conley as warden, a position he held until 1921. Conley instituted an extensive trusty program in which many prisoners worked outside the prison walls. Prison work crews built roads in western Montana and constructed buildings at the Montana State Hospital for the Insane and the Montana State Tuberculosis Sanitarium, as well as making many improvements to the prison itself. In 1921 Governor Joseph Dixon initiated an investigation of Conley's alleged use of state monies for personal gain; this investigation led to Conley's dismissal.

Conditions at the prison deteriorated in the decades that followed Conley's dismissal. The trusty program was largely abandoned due to the depressed economy and the concomitant protest by free labor against prisoners working outside the prison. Additionally, few industries had been developed within the prison, leaving many inmates idle. Overcrowding and the decay of the physical plant contributed to poor living conditions at the prison.

In 1957 an investigation of prison conditions conducted by Kenyon J. Scudder reported appalling and potentially explosive conditions at the prison. Later that year a "disturbance" did occur during which hostages were taken. A large scale riot occurred in 1959. The prison was made part of the Department of Institutions in 1963. A new prison was constructed in 1979 outside of Deer Lodge.

The Board of Territorial Prison Commissioners (later the Board of Prison Commissioners) was established in 1867, consisting of three elected members holding office for two years. The commissioners had "full and exclusive control over all the territorial prison grounds, buildings, prisoners, prison labor, prison property and all other things belonging or pertaining to said prison," and established "rules, regulations and by-laws" to govern the prison. The commissioners met every three months. An 1893 law removed prisoners from the commissioners' control, empowered the Board to appoint the warden, and established the Board as consisting of the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general, with two members constituting a quorum. In 1907 the Board was given the power to approve or disapprove parole for prisoners recommended by the governor. In 1913 the governor was given the power to appoint the warden, and the Board was given jurisdiction over persons receiving suspended sentences. In 1955 the Board's jurisdiction over paroles and suspended sentences was delegated to the State Board of Pardons. Legislation establishing the Board of State Prison Commissioners was not included in the 1972 constitution; the Board was formally abolished in 1974.

The State Board of Pardons was established in 1891, consisting of the secretary of state, the attorney general, and the state auditor. The Board was required to convene if the governor granted a pardon, remitted a fine or forfeiture, or commuted a punishment. The Board would then cause a notice of a hearing concerning the case to be published in a newspaper in the county in which the crime was committed and notify the concerned county attorney, district judge, and sheriff. Subsequent to the hearing the Board would file its decision with the secretary of state. In 1955 the Board membership was changed to three members appointed by the governor to terms of six years. The appointees were given the responsibility of administering the executive clemency, probation, and parole system. The Board was made part of the Department of Institutions in 1971.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

These Montana State Prison records (1871-1981) consist of convict registers, descriptive lists of prisoners, personal descriptions, including name, birth date, physical description, nature of crime, previous convictions, etc. There is a prisoner card index covering the years 1892-2000 in the Archives offices.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Montana Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library before any reproduction use. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Item description and date. Name of Collection. Collection Number. Box and folder number. Montana Historical Society Research Center. Archives. Helena, Montana.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Arrangement

Arranged is predominantly chronological

Acquisition Information

Acquisition information available upon request.

Processing Note

The order of the reels of microfilm is as they were received from the Prison. There is considerable duplication and overlap, and some reels are out of chronological order.


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Prisoner RecordsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Reel
1
“State Prison Convict Register” (arranged chronologically by date of sentencing; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, marital status, physical description, crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, good time, discharge date, previous convictions)
1879 March-1910 November
2
“Descriptive list of prisoners received…” (arranged alphabetically within each fiscal year; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, marital status and wife’s residence, name and address of parents and/or siblings, physical description, health, crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, good time, discharge date, previous convictions)
1892 December-1896 November
3
“Descriptive list of prisoners received…” (arranged alphabetically within each fiscal year;; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, name and address of wife, parents and/or siblings, physical description, health, crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, good time, discharge date, previous convictions)
1896 December-1904 November
4
Untitled record of prisoners (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, education, physical description, crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, previous convictions)
1871 July-1885 October
5
Untitled record of prisoners (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, marital status, physical description, crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, previous convictions)
1891 October-1892 December
6
“Personal description book of prisoners…” (arranged chronologically; includes name, age, physical description, date received and discharged)
1891 October-1893 July
6 (cont'd.)
“Personal description book of prisoners…” (arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, physical description, literacy, crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date; in 1900 tobacco use was noted; starting in 1901 religion was included)
1893 August-1902 January
7
“Prisoner description book …” (indexed; arranged roughly chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, physical description, marital status, name and addresses of next of kin, literacy, tobacco use, religion, health, crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date)
1902 January-1906 December
7 cont'd.
“Prisoner description book …” (indexed; arranged roughly chronologically; includes name, physical description, name and addresses of parents, literacy, tobacco use, religion, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date)
1907 January-1910 January
8
“Descriptive list of prisoners received…” (arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, rule violations, good time, discharge date, value of cash and clothing provided on release, previous convictions, remarks)
1903 December-1912 March
9
“Descriptive list of prisoners received…” (arranged roughly chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, rule violations, good time, discharge date, value of cash and clothing provided on release, previous convictions, remarks)
1912 April-1921 May
10
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, rule violations, discharge date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1895-1908
11
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, rule violations, discharge date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1907 November-1914 May
12
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, employment history, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1914 May-1917 March
13
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, employment history, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1918 February-1922 August
14
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, employment history, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1922 August-1925 December
15
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, employment history, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1925 December-1929 January
16
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, employment history, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1929 January-1932 November
17
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, ethnic descent, occupation, employment history, military service, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1932 November-1939 March
18
“Description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, ethnic descent, occupation, employment history, military service, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, discharge date, parole date, value of cash and clothing provided on release, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1939 March-1950 March
19
“Description of prisoners” (arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, ethnic descent, occupation, employment history, military service, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, rule violations, good time, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; photo)
1950 March-1958 May
20
“Description of prisoners” (arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, ethnic descent, occupation, employment history, military service, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, rule violations, good time, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; FBI number; photo)
1958 May-1965 March
21
“Description of prisoners” (arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, ethnic descent, occupation, employment history, military service, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, rule violations, good time, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; FBI number; photo)
1965 March-1976 February
22
“Description of prisoners” (arranged chronologically; includes name, age, place of birth, ethnic descent, occupation, employment history, military service, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, religion, date of arrival in Montana, brief description of crime, county where convicted, date and term of sentence, rule violations, good time, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, history after release, remarks; FBI number; photo)
1976 February-1981 March
23
“Discharge description of prisoners” (indexed; arranged chronologically by date of parole; includes name, age, place of birth, occupation, military service, physical description, name and addresses of wife, parents and/or siblings, literacy, tobacco use, brief description of crime, discharge date, parole date, previous convictions, photo number)
1927 January-1928 May

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Prisoners--Montana.
  • Prisons--Montana.

Geographical Names

  • Montana--Politics and government.