A view of one of the 5′ x 7′ Prison Cells in the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville West Virginia. Right above the Bunk on the lower left was a second elevated Bunk, you can see where it was by the dirty wall underneath. The Prison closed in 1995 when the prisoners won a lawsuit in the West Virginia Supreme Court because in the 80’s the prison was overcrowded and housed 3 men in each 5′ x 7′ cell, 2 in the bunks and one on the floor on a mattress, I could not imagine 3 men living in a 35 square foot cell (3 criminals mind you).
The W.V. Supreme Court ruled the 5′ x 7′ Cells were cruel and unusual punishment in 1986 and they began transferring prisoners out of Moundsville and relocating them to new locations. The Prison closed its doors in 1995 and now stands as a Historical location for tours and training for Law enforcement and Correctional officers.
From 1899 to 1959, ninety-four men were executed at the prison. Hanging was the method of execution until 1949, with eighty-five men meeting that fate. Hangings were public until June 19, 1931. On that date, Frank Hyer was executed for murdering his wife. When the trap door beneath him was opened and his full weight settled into the noose, he was instantly decapitated. The last man executed by hanging, Bud Peterson from Logan County, was buried in the prison’s cemetery because his family refused to claim his body.
Beginning in 1951, electrocution became the means of execution. The electric chair, nicknamed “Old Sparky”, used by the prison was originally built by an inmate there, Paul Glenn. Nine men were electrocuted before the state prohibited capital punishment entirely in 1965. The last execution carried out in the state’s electric chair was that of Elmer Bruner on April 3, 1959. The original chair is on display in the facility.
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