This collection contains documents on the organization and operations of the Arkansas State Penitentiary, now known as the Arkansas Department of Correction. It includes a report by prison warden, Thomas O. Murton, a prison investigation report, annual and biennial reports of the prison board and other divisions, as well as ledgers of expenditures and prisoners admitted and released. The records in this collection range from the years 1871 to 1968.
The first state penitentiary in Arkansas was built in 1839-1840 in Little Rock. It was located where the current state capitol building is now. In 1899, it was relocated to a site southwest of the Little Rock to make room for the new state capitol building. The new penitentiary was known as "The Walls." The Cummins State Prison Farm opened in Lincoln County in 1902 and the Tucker State Prison Farm opened in Jefferson County in 1916. "The Walls" closed in 1933, and the prisoners there were transferred to the two new facilities. The State Penitentiary Board operated until 1968, when Act 50 established the Arkansas Department of Correction. After that point, the State Penitentiary Board became the State Board of Correction, and began overseeing the ADC. Throughout its history, the Arkansas Department of Correction has been involved in several scandals and allegations of wrongdoing. In the 1960s, allegations included excessive punishment and mistreatment of prisoners; and in 1966, Governor Orval Faubus opened an investigation. In 1967, Thomas O. Murton was hired by Governor Rockefeller to reform the Arkansas prison farms. During and after his time as superintendent, he made allegations about corruption within the prison system and the wrongdoing of prison employees. His account was later published in a book, Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal. It was also made into a movie titled, Brubaker. This collection contains a report by Murton, as well as a report on an investigation of the prison system that was launched in 1968, after three skeletons were found buried on the Cummins prison grounds. The prison underwent a reorganization in 1968, but many of the problems still persisted. In 1970, the prison system was ruled unconstitutional by Judge J. Smith Henley in the Holt v. Sarver case because of the cruel and unusual punishment of prisoners. It was placed under his jurisdiction until 1973, when he cited improvements. The prison was also involved in the Arkansas blood scandal, where blood infected with diseases such as HIV and hepatitis was sold and shipped across the world. It often was not tested for disease prior to being sold. Currently, the ADC operates 20 different facilities, including the Varner Unit, a super maximum security facility that houses inmates for the death penalty. Executions take place at the Cummins Unit.
Document, 8.5" x 11"
Arkansas State Penitentiary/Arkansas Department of Correction records. MS.000963
Arkansas State Archives
Arkansas State Archives
Arkansas State Penitentiary/Arkansas Department of Correction records, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.
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United States History