In the 1940s, the West Virginia legislature appropriated $45,000 to buy the closed resort hotel at Pence Springs, Summers County as a state prison for women. Until 1947, female prisoners had been kept at Moundsville Penitentiary, the men’s maximum-security prison. After the deserted hotel was renovated, two busloads of women and guards left Moundsville for the long trip to Pence Springs. When one of the buses overturned, all the women crowded into the other bus.
They found a place superior to their old quarters at Moundsville. The hotel lobby had become a recreation room; the ballroom became the dining room; the old casino building was used as a cannery; and the garage became a milking barn. The hotel windows had bars now, and round holes, covered by flaps, were cut in the guest room doors so that guards could check on inmates.
The women’s ages ranged from 22 to 50. The most common reason for which the women had been jailed was grand larceny. The second most common crime was murder, often of a husband. Forgery was the third most common offense. Wearing bright blue jumpers and white blouses, the inmates spent their days farming, cooking, sewing, cleaning, and attending classes.
The Pence Springs prison closed in 1985, and the inmates were transferred to the Alderson Federal Prison for women. In 1988, the state’s women prison inmates were moved from Alderson to the Pruntytown Correctional Center in Taylor County. The female inmates at Pruntytown were transferred to Lakin Correctional Facility in Mason County in 2007.
In 1986, the prison property at Pence Springs was purchased and renovated as a hotel. The property soon changed hands again when it became the Greenbrier Academy for Girls, a facility for troubled adolescents.
This Article was written by Maureen F. Crockett
Last Revised on July 15, 2013
Cite This Article
Crockett, Maureen F. "West Virginia Prison for Women." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 15 July 2013. Web. 10 March 2014.