Moundsville Penitentiary 1986 Riot
Moundsville Penitentiary 1986 Riot
January 1, 1986
You can read about the Ghost Adventures episode on Moundsville Penitentiary by clicking here.
Article Courtesy of the New York Times
2 Dead at West Virginia Prison; Inmates Agree to Yield After Riot
By William K. Stevens, Special to the New York Times
Published: January 3, 1986
MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va., Jan. 2— Inmates who took over the West Virginia Penitentiary agreed today to release all hostages by Friday and to return control of the prison to the authorities.
In return, Gov. Arch A. Moore of West Virginia agreed to the prisoners’ demand that he meet with them Friday to discuss improving their treatment. They had demanded ”decent meals” and at least one hot meal a day. Two Deaths in Uprising
Hundreds of inmates took over the south end of the 120-year-old penitentiary, West Virginia’s only maximum-security prison, on the evening of New Year’s Day. Two prisoners were killed in the uprising, a prison spokesman said. The killing of the second man came to light after the signing of the pact today.
As part of the agreement, signed on live television, six hostages, mostly guards, were released this afternoon. One by one, they were taken in ambulances from the grounds of the old Gothic prison, with its stone turrets and battlements. They were reported unharmed and in good health but were given physical examinations as a precaution. Tears for One Outside
A small group of families of the hostages waited outside the gate. As the last ambulance pulled away one woman, realizing that her loved one was still inside, was led away in tears.
”Back off, boys, back off, give her room,” a blue-jacketed prison official told reporters. The woman got into a van and it drove off. Earlier, 3 of an original group of 16 hostages were set free for medical reasons. The last 7 were to be released late Friday morning or early Friday afternoon.
The agreement and the success in carrying out the first phase of the hostage release came after a tense night and morning. State troopers surrounded the prison.
At one point a hostage, William Henderson, telephoned his home to relay a message from the inmates not to storm the prison or someone would be killed. Mr. Henderson said that the hostages had been separated from one another. Moore Initially Resists
In that early period Governor Moore, who was outside the state, conveyed through spokesmen his determination not to talk with any of the prison rioters until all the hostages were released, the inmates were back in their cells and control of the institution had passed back to the state.
This afternoon’s announcement of the agreement left it unclear whether he would speak with representatives of the prisoners before or after the final group of hostages were freed.
Behind what appeared at the time to be hardening positions, however, three negotiators for the State Department of Corrections worked out the deal by telephone with inmates’ representatives.
Asked why the hostages were to be released in two groups, John Price, Mr. Moore’s press secretary, said the inmates had requested time to clean up the prison.
Since 1983 the penitentiary has been under a court order calling for improvements, including relief from overcrowding, but critics say only the first steps have been taken. On Christmas Day, according to Warren Hedrick, the warden, the prison population was about 100 inmates over its capacity of 650. A major riot broke out there in 1973. In 1979 a prisoner and a state police trooper died as 15 inmates broke out of the prison. Prisoner Tells of Demands
Wednesday night the prisoners presented a list of 21 demands for better treatment. These were not detailed publicly. But an inmate spokesman, Alvin Gregory, described some of them this afternoon. In a gray sweatshirt, red jacket and blue ski cap, he addressed the public on live television. That appearance was also part of the negotiated agreement, according to Mr. Price, the Governor’s press secretary, who made the arrangements.
After the pact was signed by Mr. Price on behalf of Mr. Moore and by A. V. Dodrill, the State Commissioner of Corrections, Mr. Gregory asked whether ”this is going to be a valid agreement or just some kind of ploy.” He added, alluding to the television audience, ”We’re signing it in front of an awful lot of witnesses, and we have no intention of backing out on it.” ‘Needed Some Outside Support’
Mr. Gregory said that the inmates had not wanted to go as far as they did, ”but we needed some outside support – this incident is something that the inmate population didn’t want.”
Later, he and the other inmate spokesman, Danny Lehman, said that there had been no real plan but that the complaints underlying the riot and takeover had been accumulating for years.
”We had one inmate death,” Mr. Gregory said. ”We regret that. Very few changes have taken place inside these walls. It is just a matter of aggravation that built up and precipitated this.”
He said a minority of the members in the the prison’s administration ”create trouble” unnecessarily for some inmates. He said the prisoners wanted ”decent meals.” Mr. Price said later that one of the prisoners’ demands was at least one hot meal a day. Treated Like Juveniles, He Says
”We don’t know why we have to sleep in 10-below-degree weather in the midst of winter,” he said. ”We don’t know why we have to sleep in 110-degree weather in the summer. We don’t know why it is that we, as grown adult men, can’t wear our hair or grow a mustache or beard.”
”We’re tired of being treated like juveniles,” Mr. Gregory said. ”They say, ‘Act like men and we’ll treat you like men,’ but it’s all talk. All we want is to be treated like human beings, like the people that we are.”
Mr. Price would not comment on the grievances, but said that ”we’ve promised the inmates that there will be serious discussions.” The discussions, he said, are ”just a beginning, obviously,” in addressing the problems of the prison.