Correctional Facility History
Pennsylvania's Correctional System is the oldest in the nation, evolving from the establishment of Philadelphia's Walnut Street Jail in 1773. The "Pennsylvania System" as it became known was the leading influence in penology throughout the century and the forerunner of modern corrections.
The Centre County Prison was founded in 1800 when Hudson Williams was authorized to build a prison 20 feet by 30 feet on East High Street just off the Public Square. In 1802 it saw its first hanging, a major event for the next 100 years. Prior to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania taking over the responsibility for capital punishment, executions were held in the county in which the perpetrator was tried and convicted. The last hanging occurred in 1911, in the high walled courtyard of the County Jail.
The "new" County Jail was built on top of the hill behind the Courthouse in 1867 and was destroyed by fire in January, 1959. It was fortress style structure which also provided housing for the sheriff and his family, the sheriff, at that time, being in charge of the jail.
In 1964 a new County Jail was completed on the site of the former jail and was in use from that time until 2005. Numerous renovations were undertaken in order to accommodate the growing prison population, the most recent being in 1986, creating a larger exercise yard, the addition of a sally port and Warden's office and the second floor reconstructed to house, at that time, 20 inmates. Bunk beds were added a year later to increase that total to 30 inmates. This second floor opened in January of 1987, and was filled by the end of that month.
Finally, after years of study and planning, ground for a new facility was obtained through a joint effort of local and State Government from the Rockview State Correctional Institution in Benner Township, Centre County. Construction for this new facility was completed in 2005.