1973 Riot At The West Virginia Penitentiary

Hostages Free; Governor Here For Pen Riot Settlement

But Race Riot Erupts As Dead Convict Hauled Out

Moundsville Daily Echo
March 21, 1973

2:35 p.m. - All seems to be again under control at the prison.

2:15 p.m. - Another disturbance broke out this afternoon at the penitentiary, after they thot [sic] it was all settled.

This one seems to be a race riot that broke loose as the body of slain black Willie Hale was being taken out (it had to lie where he fell, for the 24 hours the new-cells section was held by the rebels.)

The prison states it is only "minor" but police are being called back out.

This morning when asked about what triggered the disturbance of the last 24 hours, Governor Moore commented that "there are all kinds of attitudes, of turmoil, of outlook for future" among the inmate population; and this affair "probably moved even further than its leaders intended it to move."

Hostages Free

The prison uprising here ended 24 hours after it began, in a dramatic appearance just before noon today on the penitentiary front porch, as Governoor [sic] Arch A. Moore Jr., his administrative assistant Norman Yost and the five guards the rioters had held hostage.

All 7 were questioned freely by newsmen.

The guards were unhurt but were obviously shaken by their ordeal.

Governor Moore reported the prisoners had submitted a total of 15 demands, of which 12 were "very reasonable and humane" and are being granted.

But 3 demands were refused and the convicts did not press for them. The administration refused to promise amnesty from punishment, and refused to permit prisoners to carry any amount of cash with them. (What happened to a third demand was not clear.)

Governor Moore said that the demands he and his staff accepted, were "humane" and items that had they been brot [sic] to their attention would have been accepted without having to go thru all that violence.

As for the rumors of 1 to 6 people killed, the Governor announced that as far as they knew, one convict lay dead in the basement under the riot-torn section, of brutal stabbing. He was identified as Willie Hale, a young black.

The five guards were presented, and newsmen given an opportunity to question them about their experiences. Unfortunately, the radiomen thrust their mikes up close, and the guards did not talk loudly enough for other newsmen to hear, and just then the Simpson church bells drowned much out. But Guard Basil Raley seemed to say that it was convicts Keith Davis and Red Snyder who first took over, as he turned his back thinking all was safe.

With this annoucement, the crisis was ended, the administration admitted newsmen to take a tour of the riot area, and then the prison embarked on a massive "shakedown" to try to clean up the flood of weapons that prisoners keep equipping themselves with.

And the junior army of police and military manpower was ready to be disbanded.

The Governor had called out the National Guard last night and they spent the night, some of them patrolling roofs of prison buildings and others adding to the guard around the outside of the stone institution. National Guard units came from New Martinsville Salem and Parkersburg in addition to the local units (Guard units now get riot control training as the result of the nationwide disturbances of a few years ago.) And chartered busses were bringing in state police still this morning.

By mid-morning the convicts who looked out from their base, could see a phalanx of armed men standing actually shoulder to shoulder along Jefferson avenue from Tenth street south.

Area Was Accessible

This morning, "Trusty" Convict Jerry Lycans walking outside, stopped the Echo reporter wanting to insure that in yesterday's Echo report that five convicts had been parked in the county jail yesterday morning: that his brother Carl was among them and that Carl's reason for being there was that he had inhaled smoke while going into the burning area to rescue men in there, and that it was not "for protection of stool pigeons" as some might think.

Lycans was carrying a boxful of big screwdrivers he said he had picked up in the siege area - standard screwdrivers with shafts up to nine inches long, that can be used for stabbing. Along with a couple of hammers there must have been almost two dozen of these in that box.

Oh, yes, he had been in and out of that area right during the siege, and had talked with the guards. He explained that the rioters had simply unlocked maximum security and opened up all the new cells in the could walk in and out of it.

The Echo had asked Norman Yost for figures earlier, been told that about 175 out of yesterday's population of 548 prisoners had spent the night in the siege area. (Those who chose to keep out of it, were put up for the night sleeping on tables in the prison dining hall and plumbing shop).

Lycans opined that most of those 175 chose to stay in the siege area because they wanted "to protect their belongings" since their cells are there.

(Another of the five transferred out to the jail yesterday, is John Koton who had been extradited from Maryland as a witness to the killing of Guard William Quilliams last year. He is said to have barely excaped [sic] with his life, to a tower, as the riot began yesterday - his life in danger.)

The jail has cancelled its customary weekly visiting hours for today, because of the tense situation.

During the negotiations, a double-hostage situation developed: several inmates were going out from their stronghold to the warden's office, under state promises of safe-conduct; and they brot [sic] with them Guard Hostage Alfred Fernandez - who seems to command respect among the prisoners, on his promise to return with them to the convicts' base.

Outside, the Salvation Army served hot coffee to the officers standing watch thru the cold nkght [sic]; and today Mrs. Myra Walton in her house across from the prison entrance fed newsmen spaghetti.

The Convicts' Demands

Following are the demands put up by the prison negotiating committee:

Tuesday afternoon's list:

1 - Investigation of all the circumstances in death of Guard Quilliams last year.

2 - Ten cells in basement be removed (these have been used for solitary confinement. A Citizen came to the Echo this morning, before demands known, mentioned putting solitary prisoners in damp basement not heathy.)

3 - Rules and regulations for prisoners, and rules and regulations for guards, be all written, and enforced with "equal justice to both sides."

4 - Whenever a newsman visis prison, and wants to talk to prisoner, and prisoner wants to talk to him, should be allowed to.

5 - Have inmate representative on prison "police court."

6 - Seek to get WV Penitentiary accredited by American Corrections Association.

7 - Indicted inmates should be provided attorney (courts do that now.)

Demands presented this morning:

[Amnesty] of those involved in present disturbance.

2 - To resolve issue of guards ignoring convicts' claim they are sick: provide a box and forms convicts may put into it, with the doctor only one having key to box.

3 - Meals brot [sic] in for maximum security section, to be served on a table.

4 - Remove a screen around an area designed to protect convicts who think their lives are threatened. (New remodelling plan includes a special section for "vulnerables" and when that is ready, screen area will go.)

5 - Unaccounted for

6 - Clean sheets, and clean clothes for exercised men.

7 - Permit inmates to carry any amount of cash (at present they are limited to $1 in cash plus any amount of prison scrip good at official prison store.)

8 - Profits from prson store go into inmates' fund. Lately this was used to buy a color TV. Now, they want this fund to be used instead for benefit individuals with problems. "It's their money, they say where it goes," said Yost.

9 - Governor to appoint an independent committee to look into problems in prison; and any prisoner's mail to such committee not to be censored.

10 - Guards carrying firearms not to be permitted to associate with general inmate population. (They aren't permitted to, now.)

11 - Maximum security prisoners to be permitted to attend Sunday church services in the walls.

12 - Families of convicts, to be able to inquire at any time about health and welfare of such convict, and get in touch with him. (Any family anywhere in W. Va. can phone free to Governo's Information Number (dial 1-800-642-9001, a toll-free line to Charleston) and a representative of the Governor will check up on that inmate.)

13 - A person requested by a convict to represent or counsel him, shall be permitted to see said convict.

14 - Visitng rights not to be cancelled because of the uprising.

The Echo has difficulty to adding all this up to one list of 15, but there is not time with this afternoon's new riot, to get it checked out.)

As I reported elsewhere, Items 1 (amnesty) and 7 (free spending money) were refused. Loose cash would open wide all kinds of trafficking in contraband and briberty opportunities.

Crime and Punishment

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