@MastersThesis{ derbes2011,
	author = {Brett J. Derbes},
	title = {Prison Productions: Textiles and Other Military Supplies from State Penitentiaries in the {Trans-Mississippi} theater during the {American Civil War}},
	school = {University of North Texas},
	year = 2011,

Notes by Ashley

War-time production at the Arkansas State Penitentiary is discussed in his third chapter, pages 30-54

  • A. J. Ward leased the penitentiary in 1859 for 8 years, officially took over on Feb. 7, 1860; chose his staff “from among well managed penitentiaries in the Union.” (Derbes 34)
  • 121 prisoners in the penitentiary by 1860, “enough to run a small textile mill efficiently.” Ward was supportive of expanding production in the prison so that inmates could be “fully [employed].” The goal was to make the prison “self-sustaining,” and the Governor (Henry Massey Rector) judged this would be best achieved “through successful implementation of the manufacture of woolen and cotton goods.” Rector judged Ward to be especially qualified for the position. (Derbes 35-36)
  • It appears that Ward was not the superintendent, as Derbes refers to Superintendent A.H. Rutherford’s cooperation with Ward (Derbes 35)
  • Ward contracted the prison to supply the needs of Arkansas Confederates; the inmates working in production apparently included “all the prisoners of war taken by the rebels in Missouri and Arkansas.” (quoted from letter written by Colonel Solon Borland in Dec. 1861; Derbes 37)
  • Information on the types of things that inmates produced on p.37-38

Quote from an issue of the Arkansas True Democrat (Oct. 31, 1861):

“The Arkansas penitentiary has been made a useful institution during the present war…Mr. Ward, the energetic contractor, tells us that by spring he will have turned out 10,000 pairs of boots and shoes for the soldiers …”

The article then discusses how the original objective of using the prison to produce “cotton goods” was sidetracked by the coming of the war: “But the breaking out of war checked this enterprise and the contractor has wisely set the convicts to work making such things as were needed by the troops.” (39-40)

  • Derbes describes the prisoners’ life and working conditions as “Spartan but humane.” They had adequate clothes and food and were provided healthcare when needed. Average age was 20-30 yrs, serving a sentence of less than 5 years (usually for stealing); most were formerly employed as farmers or laborers. (43-44, 46) They worked under a “strict system of discipline” put in place by Superintendent Rutherford. (45) Prisoners seemed to have been largely content, although I am not sure how much of this is to the credit or Ward (or how much of it is due to Rutherford’s management): “The prisoners were reportedly more content than under the previous regulations, and the Arkansas system of prison management was reported to be one of the best in the Union.” (45-46)