Mississippi--State Penitentiary (Jackson)



Operating at the state level, the Mississippi State Penitentiary (also known as "the Walls") was opened on April 15, 1840 in Jackson on the site of the present-day capitol building. The facility was constructed from convict labor, a practice that continued within the prison when it opened in 1840.

During the American Civil, Mississippi pardoned forty inmates and mustered them into Confederate service and relocated the remaining inmates to county jails, so that the penitentiary could be converted into a munitions factory. General William T. Sherman's Federal Army captured the penitentiary/munitions factory in May 1863 during the Atlanta Campaign.

The penitentiary re-opened to inmates in 1866 and operated a vast convict labor and convict leasing program. These programs were devastating for Black Mississippians as the state's passage of "Pig Laws" and the racially-specific adjudication of criminal procedure, funneled large numbers of freed Black Americans into the state's penitentiary system to perform unpaid labor for the state and private entities. The facilities at Jackson remained in operation until 1894, when Mississippi purchased three plantation sites to house and work state prisoners. ("Convict Leasing and Chain Gangs," Mississippi Encyclopedia)

See also: https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/about/brief-history-mdoc

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