Prisons and Penitentiaries in Appalachia


Appalachian prisons and other penal institutions in the region have received scant attention. Contrary to stereotypes, however, Appalachian states had robust legal institutions, and the strengthening of governments after the Civil War contributed to the growth of prisons. This document should be used as a general introduction to the trends of prison development in Appalachia that largely paralleled that of America as a whole.

Introductory Text: 

Ayers, Edward L. Vengeance and Justice: Crime and Punishment in the 19th-Century American South. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. ASU Main Stacks HV 9475 .A13 A96 1984. See particularly chapters 2, 4, and 6.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Prisons (May Subdivide Geographically)
  • Prisoners (May Subdivide Geographically)
  • -- Legal status, laws, etc. (May Subdivide Geographically)
  • -- United States
  • Prison administration (May Subdivide Geographically)
  • Prison discipline (May Subdivide Geographically)

Also Relevant:

  • Prisons -- Overcrowding (May Subdivide Geographically)
  • Prison industries (May Subdivide Geographically)
  • -- Laws and legislation (May Subdivide Geographically)
  • Prison riots (May Subdivide Geographically)

More General:

  • Alternatives to imprisonment
  • Statistics


  • Prisons and race relations (May Subdivide Geographically)
  • Shock incarceration
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 

Highly relevant:

  • Prison rehabilitation

Also relevant:

  • Crime


  • Watauga County – Old Jail House
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • HV 8301 - HV 9920
  • HV 8756
  • HV 8766
  • HV 8888 – HV 8931
  • HV 9276
  • HV 9278.5

Because Appalachian Studies has neglected prisons, there are no frequently mentioned works. Instead, this section is a historical survey.

Little, Lewis Peyton. Imprisoned Preachers and Religious Liberty in Virginia. Lynchburg, Va.: J.P. Bell, 1938. Reprinted 1987 by Church History Research and Archives, Gallatin, Tenn. ASU App Coll BX 6248 .V8 L5

Mancini, Matthew J. One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866- 1928. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1996. ASU Main Stacks HV 8929 .S92 M36 1996

Ward, Robert David and William Warren Rogers. Convicts, Coal, and the Banner Mine Tragedy.Tuscaloosa, Al.: University of Alabama Press, 1987. ASU App Coll HV 8929 .A22 W37 1987

Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley. The Alderson Story: My Life as a Political Prisoner. New York: International Publishers, 1987. ASU Main Stacks HV 8658 .F58 A3 1963

Useem, Bert and Peter Kimball. States of Siege: U.S. Prison Riots, 1971-1986. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. See pp. 261-300. ASU Main Stacks HV 9471 .U84 1989

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Wilson, Charles Reagan and William Ferris, eds. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Pp. 1494-96. ASU App Coll Oversize F 209 .E53 1989.

Brunvand, Jan Harold, ed. American Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1996. Pp. 593-95. ASU App Coll Oversize GR 101 .A54 1996.

Sifakis, Carl, ed. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. 2nd ed. New York: Facts on File, 2001. Pp. 175, 214-15. ASU Ref HV 6789 .S54 2001

Levinson, David, ed. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2002. 4: 1602-05. ASU Ref HV 6017 .E524 2002

Roller, David C. and Robert W. Twyman, eds. Encyclopedia of Southern History. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1979. Pp. 294, 962-63. ASU Ref F 207.7 .E52


Smith, Sam B., ed. Tennessee History: A Bibliography. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1974. Pp. 15, 217, 219. ASU App Coll Z 1337 .S55

Dickinson, W. Calvin and Eloise R. Hitchcock, eds. A Bibliography of Tennessee History. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999. Look in index for “prisons” (p. 152), “penal codes” (151), and “convict lease labor” (144). ASU App Coll Z 1337 .B53 1999

Forbes, Harold M. West Virginia History: A Bibliography and Guide to Research. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 1981. Pp.141-44, 281. ASU App Coll Z 1349.1 .F6 W6

Bryant, Ron D. Kentucky History: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. See index for “penitentiary” (p. 542). ASU App Coll Z 1287 .B79

Brown, Jessica B., ed. The American South: A Historical Biography. 2 vols. Clio Bibliographic Series Nos. 21 and 22. Santa Barbara, Ca.: ABC-Clio, 1986. Look in indices for “prison” (1:468; 2:378). ASU Ref F 209 .A45 1986

Abstracts and Indices: 

Criminal Justice Abstracts. As described on its first page, this quarterly periodical “contains hundreds of in-depth abstracts of current books, journal articles, and reports published worldwide.” Search for “prisons” as well as for specific Appalachian states. ASU Ref HV 6001 .C67 1977-present; also available online through library homepage.

Criminal Justice Periodical Index. This annual publication describes itself as a “thorough indexing of over 100 U.S., British, and Canadian journals” in various subfields of criminology. Its headings largely follow the Library of Congress headings outlined above. ASU Ref HV 6001 .C68 1977-1998.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. Information on recidivism, mental health, populations, expenditures, and more. Can be found online at

Sociological Abstracts. Bimonthly abstracts from several hundred international journals in the social sciences. Search for “prisons” in conjunction with specific Appalachian states or with rural areas. Available online through library homepage.

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Matt Schroeder, 4 November 2002

Updated by: 

Updated: Ian Willms, 8 October 2009