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The Forgotten Prison on Kennison Mountain - Part 2 of 4

March 7, 2012 - Jodi Burnsworth
(Previous Post: see link at right)

The valley soon filled with a dining hall, three dormitories, a warehouse, boiler plant, school, administration building, infirmary, sawmill and craft shop. Nine houses for employees and a community building came next, up the hill at the edge of the forest.

This was not your typical prison. This prison in the woods had no fences, no walls, and minimum supervision. Inmates knew to stay inside the white posts spaced every 40 feet around their legal perimeter. Each had a “Keep Inside” sign, and that was enough.

The clientele here were obviously not fiends, murderers, and world-class drug dealers. Most were essentially good people who somehow had run afoul of federal law. Most inmates stayed only a short time, six to 18 months, and the government also used Mill Point as a half-way house for prisoners from high security prisons like Atlanta or Lewisburg who were almost ready for parole. Mill Point, an honor camp, was a good place to deinstitutionalize long-term prisoners, and offered men more responsibility. Escape was as easy as strolling into the nearby woods, so the staff took head count every few hours. Over the years, there were only 20 escapes.

Normal routine had prisoners rising at 6 a.m., dressing, eating, and then working from 8 to 4:30 p.m. After work they could rest or enjoy outdoor activities. After supper they had to be indoors, either in the dorm, taking classes, making crafts, visiting the library or writing home.

Mill Point inmates had their minds fed too. If the staff found a prisoner who could not read or write, he had compulsory schooling four nights a week, for one hour each night. Usually, a third of the population was taking classes. They also offered classes in electricity, welding, carpentry, and cabinet making. Prisoners or staff, whoever could teach a course, did so.

Everyone in Pocahontas County, inside or prison or not, fought forest fires. In the 20 years Mill Point was open, inmates left whatever job they were doing to help out when the woods were burning. In a heavily forested county, fire is a serious business.

(Next Post: see link at right)


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