County Jail And House Of Correction

      The first jail for Franklin County was erected probably in the same year with the original court-house, 1813. It was constructed of wood, and stood a little south of where the Union Hotel now stands. The cost of the building cannot be precisely determined from the records, as the appropriations named and expenditures stated include both court-house and jail, but it was probably from one thousand to fifteen hundred dollars. This building was occupied until 1831, when a new one was erected.
      The second jail was constructed of stone from the quarries in Northfield, the amount used being about three hundred and fifty tons, equivalent to about four thousand cubic feet, or thirty-one and one-quarter cords of one hundred and twenty-eight feet each. An appropriation of one thousand dollars was made for the erection of the building in December, 1830, and it was completed during the following year, at a total cost, according to the commissioners' account, of $4746.65, of which $770.23 was paid for hauling the stone from the quarries.*
      The building was thirty-eight feet square, and contained eleven rooms. During the period of its construction the prisoners were transferred to the Hampshire County jail, at Northampton, for safe-keeping. This structure was in use until the completion of a third one, in 1856. It now forms a part of the Union Hotel.
      In 1855 the necessity for a new and enlarged county prison and a more healthy location having become apparent, steps were taken toward the necessary changes and improvements, and the land on the hill now occupied was purchased at a cost of three thousand dollars.
      The present county jail and house of correction was built in 1856, and the total cost, as near as can be readily ascertained, was about thirty thousand dollars, including land.
      The basement is of stone and the superstructure of brick, with stone trimmings. The building is in the form of a Latin cross, with additions on the north, south, and east. The total length of the structure is about ninety-three feet, and the extreme width, not including additions, about fifty-six feet. The size of the jail or prison proper is thirty-eight feet four inches by fifty-three feet. The front building is two stories and an attic, and the prison portion two stories. There are two tiers of cells, and thirty-five cells in all, including three recently constructed in the basement for the confinement of desperate criminals and drunkards. The upper story of the prison is occupied as a workshop, where the prisoners are at present employed in bottoming cane-seat chairs. The front building is occupied on the first floor by the office, parlor, sitting-room, and kitchen, and on the second floor by corresponding chambers and the chapel, which is over the kitchen. The sheriff's family resides in the building. The cells lock independently, and also in sections. There is in the centre of the structure a large circular tower, ten feet in diameter, rising above the roof, used for ventilating purposes and for chimney-flues. The premises are well ventilated, and connected with the gas- and the water-works of the town. The drainage and sewage are good. The roof is covered with slate. The entire establishment is in thorough order in every respect, and well conducted.
      In many respects it greatly resembles the ordinary State penitentiaries, more particularly in the arrangement of the cells, in the custom of employing prisoners at some kind of profitable labor, and in the length of terms of imprisonment, which vary according to the discretion of the court. At the present time there is one woman serving a term of seven years.
      When a prisoner is received he or she is measured, and a minute description entered on the records of the institution. There is perhaps only one unsatisfactory feature about the establishment, and that is the lack of some provision whereby persons charged with crime and awaiting trial shall not be compelled to mingle with criminals serving terms of imprisonment. The location is very fine and healthful one, and certainly as unobjectionable as could be expected in one of its class. A chaplain and physician are provided for the benefit of the inmates at the expense of the county.

* The county commissioners at that date were Horace W. Taft, Thomas Longley, John Aims.

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This page was last updated on
06 Aug 2005