History and Overview
The Kentucky State Reformatory is located in LaGrange, Kentucky which is approximately (30) thirty miles north-east ofLouisville. It is a medium security facility under the administration of the Kentucky Justice Cabinet, Department ofCorrection and is the state's second largest institution in term of inmate population with a 2005-bed capacity.
The Kentucky State Reformatory was the third prison built in the Commonwealth of Kentucky following the establishment of a penal system by Kentucky’s Legislature in 1798. The Reformatory, whose history is closely linked with Kentucky’s political history and correctional philosophy, has undergone many changes during its existence.
The concept of the Kentucky State Reformatory was made possible through the appropriation of funds by the 1936 General Assembly and matching federal funds form the Public Works Administration. A committee chosen by Governor A.B. "Happy" Chandler toured the country seeking ideas to bring back to Kentucky so that the new institution being planned would be the correctional showplace of America. The committee returned with a blueprint that was innovative as far as prison construction of the time was concerned. Architecturally, it appeared similar to schools and hospitals of that era. Instead of having individual cells for inmates, the plans called for open-wing dormitories. There was liberal space for each man and the design committee believed this would encourage the men to return to the community and lead crime-free lives. The prison hospital was said to be the best-equipped facility within a fifteen- (15) state area. Overall, the Chandler Administration believed that the construction of the new buildings coupled with the adjacent area of farmland were Kentucky’s answer to prison rehabilitation.
Up to the present day the physical plant has essentially retained its original configuration. The twelve-story administration building was designed to house the offices of key staff members, a hospital and medical offices, together with living quarters for correctional staff. The eleventh floor houses the machinery of the elevator; the twelfth floor houses a now defunct 150,000-gallon water tank.
There are now twelve (12) dormitories. A Special Management Unit (cellblock) with 130 cells to house inmates requiring higher security supervision. The Corrections Psychiatric Treatment Unit with a fifty (50) bed wing for special management and two (2) treatment program wings with each wing housing fifty (50) inmates, and a fifty-eight (58) bed Nursing Care Facility (the hospital closed in November, 1995). In addition, a twenty-two (22) bed outside detail living area exists outside the perimeter fence which house inmates that provide manpower for outside details and the institutions ambulance service. Over the years, changes in correctional philosophy have dictated that all open-wing housing areas be modified to individual rooms. Shifts in our thinking, together with experience has led us from our belief that renovation of existing dormitories is most feasible to the realization that demolition and new construction is the most cost effective option.
Other buildings making up the Kentucky State Reformatory include an Academic/Vocational School, Gymnasium, Chapel, Dining Facility, Inmate Canteen, Correctional Industries, Visitation Building and Mental Health Building.
In the early 1980’s inmates at the Kentucky State Penitentiary and the Kentucky State Reformatory brought a Federal lawsuit against the two (2) prisons over living conditions. They alleged that the living conditions at both institutions violated their civil rights. Judging that it would not be prudent to litigate, the Department of Corrections entered into a Consent Decree. The Reformatory has obtained a ruling of substantial compliance with the Federal Court Consent Decree under which it has operated since 1980. The institution underwent many changes and improvements during the past years to meet the requirements of the Consent Decree and presented evidence of substantial compliance at a trial held in July, 1986 receiving the final ruling from Chief Judge Edward Johnstone on March 13, 1987. This ruling of substantial compliance has been the most expedient in the history of U.S. Corrections thus far
To provide an efficient and effective service delivery system, the Kentucky State Reformatory is divided into individual departments specializing in an area of service or institutional support. Each department is directed by a department head who answers to a Deputy Warden responsible for the administration and management of that general service area. The Deputy Warden’s also coordinate the service provided by the Department of Corrections Division of Mental Health, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Correctional Industries, the Oldham County Public Library, the Division of Probation and Parole, Public Advocacy, and the Inmate Canteen.
All totalled, the Kentucky State Reformatory has 518 funded positions. Staff employed by other agencies at the Kentucky State Reformatory totals 136 employees.
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Accredited by the American Correctional Association (ACA).