Kentucky State Reformatory

Coordinates: 38°24′13″N 85°24′57″W / 38.40361°N 85.41583°W / 38.40361; -85.41583
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Kentucky State Reformatory
Kentucky State Reformatory is located in Kentucky
Kentucky State Reformatory
Location in Kentucky
Location3001 W Hwy 146, LaGrange, Kentucky
Coordinates38°24′13″N 85°24′57″W / 38.40361°N 85.41583°W / 38.40361; -85.41583
Security classmedium
Managed byKentucky Department of Corrections
WardenAnna Valentine
Kentucky State Reformatory
La Grange, Ky.
Postcard view, c. 1940

Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR) is a medium-security prison for adult males. The prison is located in unincorporated Oldham County, Kentucky, near La Grange,[1] and about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Louisville.[2] It opened in 1940[3] to replace the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort (later known as Kentucky State Reformatory) after a flood damaged the original property. The current (2020) capacity of KSR is 1053 inmates.


The Kentucky Legislature of 1936 appropriated funds for erection of a new State "Medium Security" Institution to replace the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort /Reformatory.[4] The cost had not yet been determined but was to be met from a Public Works Administration (P.W.A.) grant.

End of Kentucky State Penitentiary/Reformatory in Frankfort in 1937 – Beginning of the new Reformatory, LaGrange: Funds for the first prison in Kentucky were allocated in 1798 and the small prison, to house 30 convicts, opened 1800. The site chosen was Frankfort, Kentucky, the capital city. Through its 137 years of history, the population grew and more buildings added. By the time of the 1937 flood,[5] that made this facility totally uninhabitable, there were 2,900 inmates, both male and female. Funds for a second prison had been allocated in 1879 to be called the "Branch Penitentiary" and to be located in Eddyville, Kentucky. The names of these two prisons were referred to in this way until the Prison Reform Bill of 1910, passed by the General Assembly, changed the mode of management of the two prisons; making one "reform" and the other "penal." This reform bill included the changing of capital punishment from the gallows to the electric chair. Frankfort did not want the chair because of lack of room and curiosity seekers. Therefore, the Frankfort Penitentiary became known as Kentucky State Reformatory and the "Branch" was deleted from the name in Eddyville's prison and officially named Kentucky State Penitentiary. Governor A. B. Chandler ordered the Frankfort Reformatory abandoned because the flood had hastened its end. However, the pending program for building and rehabilitating State institutions included a new prison to replace it.[6]' The prisons was under the Welfare Department, with Commissioner of Welfare being Frederick A. Wallis.[7]

Site and Construction[edit]

March 1937: 2,884 acres in Oldham County was purchased by the State of Kentucky at a price of $141,033, or $48.53 per acre, for use as prison farm; construction of buildings, etc., and will cost approximately $1,500,000.[8] Advertisement for Bids was advertised in local papers with a list of specifications.[9] That same month, 200 prisoners arrived in Oldham County to work at the site of the new state prison.[10][11]
A. L. Coupe Construction Company, Louisville, Kentucky, was awarded the contract by the State to construct six dormitory buildings at the new State prison farm near LaGrange.[12]

Construction began in 1937 of the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange,[13] as designed by William Strudwick Arrasmith. Other architects associated in the construction were Herman Wischmeyer, Oscar Joseph, Fred Elswick, Alfred Joseph, J. J. Curtis, Hugh Meriwether, J. T. Gillig, L. K. Frankel, H. A. Churchill, John Wilson of Lexington and McDermott, who directed the program.[14] The State Reformatory was a model of social reform. The new prison has open-winged dormitories instead of the traditional individual cells.[15] It was surrounded by 900 acres (3.6 km2) [6] of the new state-owned farmland that the inmates manage. In addition to running the farm, the inmates also worked in the rock quarry nearby. The spacious new dormitories and farmland were designed to encourage prisoners to reform.
The Krause-Weilage Company of Louisville had the contract for air-conditioning the operating rooms in the hospital, in the Administration Building, and refrigeration equipment in the mess hall.[16]

From Temporary Barracks 1937 to Move in Day 1940[edit]

When 200 of the prisoners from the Frankfort Reformatory arrived at the new site they were housed in tents much like they had lived after the flood in Frankfort. By June, they were building temporary barracks; i.e., mess hall, housing, administration, etc.[17] Moving day from the temporary barracks, located about 800 yards away from the newly constructed structure occurred in March 1940. The buildings were on a 2,900-acre tract of land. At a cost of $2,500,000, sixteen buildings were reported to be of the best in modern prisons.[18]

Wardens Kentucky State Reformatory[edit]

James W. Hammond [19]—1936-1944--
A. S. Nunn [20]—1944 – 1945--
Francis S. Kiernen [21]—Jun 1945 – Dec 1948--
Renald L. Whaley [22]—Dec. 1948- Nov 1951--
Porter B. Lady [23]—Mar 1952 -Mach 1956—He had been deputy warden one year prior.
Dan Gray [24]—Mar 1956 Jan 1960—KSR was first prison to have a nine-hole golf course. Golf course built 1957.[25]
David S. Davis [26]—Jan 1960 – July 1965--
Harold E. Black [27]—July 1965 – Jan 1966—Acting Warden after Davis resigned.
Martin J. Wiman [28]—Jan 1966 June 1967--
James E. Howard [29]—Mar 1967 Nov 1970[30][31]—1967: No longer called wardens – now known as superintendents[32]
Harold E. Black [33]—Nov 1970 – Aug 1977--
Dewey Sowders [34]—Aug 1977- Jan 1979 --
Stephen T. Smith [35]—Jan 1979-1980 --
John D. Rees [36][37]—1980 – 1986 [38]-- -Later John Rees became Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Corrections 2004–2008.
Betty Kassulke [39]—Jul 1986 – Oct 1986—Interim warden 1986
Al Parke [40]—1986 – 1992--
Walter Chapleau [41][42]—1992 – 1995--
William "Bill" Seabold [43][44]—1996 – 2003--
Larry Chandler [45]—2003-2008 [46]—Had previously been warden of Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. July 2020 Larry Chandler Named Warden[47] of the new prison Southern State Correctional Complex (SSCC), Wheelwright, Kentucky
J. David Donahue [48]—2008 – 2009--
Cookie Crews [49]—2009 – 2012–2012 Cookie Crew was promoted[50] to health services administrator. 2020 Cookie Crews named Kentucky Department of Corrections Commissioner.[51]
Clark J. Taylor [52]—2012 – 2014—Retires [53] as warden at KSR in 2014
Aaron B. Smith [54]—2014 – 2018--
Anna L. Valentine [55]—2018 – current

Forensic Psychiatric Unit[edit]

October 1, 1975 an announcement was made that a forensic psychiatric care unit would be built and operated at LaGrange State Reformatory by Gov. Julian Carroll. The unit was authorized by the 1972 General Assembly. It had been planned for Central State Hospital but that facility was later leased to a private organization. The new facility to be jointly operated by Departments of Justice and Human Resources to provide psychiatric examination for persons needing that service prior to a court appearance.[56]

Consent decree[edit]

Consent decree[57][edit]

On August 25, 1976 Jerald L. Kendrick, serving time at the Kentucky State Penitentiary, prepared a 40-page lawsuit and filed it in U.S. District Court at Paducah. Kendrick et al. vs. David H. Bland, et al. and James M. Thompson, et al. vs. David H. Bland[58], became a precedent for the handling of state prisoners. A settlement was reached on April 4, 1980[59] by U.S. District Judge Edward Johnstone[60] of Princeton. Three prisons would have to come into compliance; Reformatory, Penitentiary and Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women.

The decree set out in the agreement that the state spend nearly $50 million over a four or five year time to satisfy just some of the complaints that Kendrick raised in his suit. That figure did not include $22 million that had already been spent on a new medium-security prison scheduled to open Fall of 1980 near the Reformatory.

John D. Rees,[61][62] was hired as warden by Department of Corrections Commissioner, George Wilson, to bring Kentucky State Reformatory into compliance under the Federal Consent Decree issued by U.S. District Judge Edward Johnstone.

Among other changes at the Kentucky State Reformatory, the consent decree:

  1. Capped the population at 1,200, thus requiring a reduction in the number of inmates by 600.
  2. Banned double bunks in the dormitories.
  3. Called for a three-step living skills program that educated inmates on how to make healthy decisions in prison and how to transition from confinement into life outside prison.
  4. Called for additional educational and vocational programs.
  5. Required the Reformatory to open a law library containing public federal documents including current Supreme Court rulings and federal statutes as well as current Kentucky State legal documents.
  6. Ordered the improvement of medical and mental health services and implemented more staff training.
  7. Called for a new visitation building.
  8. Mandated specialized training programs for staff as well as a 20% pay raise for corrections officers.

In March 1992, Judge Edward Johnstone ruled that the Kentucky State Reformatory had complied with the requirements of the consent decree.


Warden John Rees led the Kentucky State Reformatory to its initial ACA accreditation in 1982,[63] the first facility to be accredited in Kentucky and its successful reaccreditation in 1985.

KSR programs[edit]

The Kentucky State Reformatory uses a unit management system. Inmates and staff are separated into smaller groups or units. The staff members of each unit include a unit manager, an assistant unit manager, correctional officers, engineering staff, and classification and treatment officers. According to the Kentucky Department of Corrections, the purpose of the unit team is to help inmates with issues such as institutional programming, parole board preparation, classification reviews, and developing release plans. The Kentucky State Reformatory also offers academic programs. The academic courses include adult basic education, GED preparation and college courses.

Chicken Hill - Prison Cemetery[edit]

The prison grounds contain a paupers' cemetery for unclaimed or indigent inmate remains.[64]

Notable inmates[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Gregory Allen Bush 277512 / 315757 Serving a life sentence without parole. Perpetrator of the 2018 Jeffersontown shooting in which he murdered Maurice E. Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones at a Kroger store.[65][66][67]
Michael Adam Carneal 246005 / 151127 Sentenced to life with possible parole after 25 years, which was not granted in 2022.[68] Culprit of the 1997 Heath High School shooting in which he murdered 3 and injured another 5.[69][70][71][72]
Gary Scott Pennington 234096 / 119687 Currently listed as serving 420 years. Perpetrator of the 1993 East Carter High School shooting in which he murdered two teachers.[73][74][75][76]


  1. ^ "La Grange city, Kentucky Archived 2011-06-08 at the Wayback Machine." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on July 20, 2010.
  2. ^ "About KSR". Kentucky Department of Corrections. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  3. ^ Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 16 Aug 1940
  4. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 27 Oct 1936 p16 Possible Sites for New Prison to be Inspected Next Week
  5. ^ The Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, KY 22 Jan 1937 p1 Penitentiary at Frankfort under three feet of water.
  6. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 12 Feb 1937 p6 Governor Order Dooms Reformatory
  7. ^ Interior Journal, Stanford, KY 12 Feb 1937 p4 A Good Appointment
  8. ^ The Owensboro Messenger, Owensboro, KY 9 Mar Mar 1937 p10 No subtitle
  9. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 27 May 1937 pp26,34
  10. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY, March 6, 1937 p12 A New City Arises in Oldham County As 200 Convicts Arrive to work at Site of New State Prison
  11. ^ Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 4 Mar 1937 p20 1st Tents Erected For Penal Colony in Oldham County.
  12. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 11 Jun 1937p16 City Firm Wins Contract for New Prison
  13. ^ Kentucky Advocate, Danville, KY 27 Feb 1937 p1 Oldham is Site for Penal Farm
  14. ^ The Paducah Sun-Democrat, Paducah, Kentucky 2 Sep 1938 p12 9 Dormitories at La Grange to Be Ready Soon
  15. ^ Theiss, Nancy (22 December 2015). "Ky". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 29 June 2018. The building itself was designed by a famous architect William Strudwick Arrasmith (1898-1965)
  16. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 3 Oct 1938 p17 Prison Hospital Air-Conditioned
  17. ^ The courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 5 June 1937 pp1,12 Kentucky Prison Builders Must Eat, Too
  18. ^ Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 16 Aug 1940
  19. ^ The Advocate-Messenger, Danville, KY 15 Feb 1936 p1 Flying Unit to Guard Reformatory Inmates
  20. ^ /The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 30 Apr 1954 p57 Obituary of - gives career information
  21. ^ Cincinnati Enquirer 24 Jun 1945 p26 New Warden Named at LaGrange.
  22. ^ Advocate Messenger 12 Nov 1951 p10 Warden at LaGrange Tenders Resignation
  23. ^ Courier Journal 16 Mar 1956 p25 Peter Lady is Relieved as Warden
  24. ^ Courier Journal 16 Mar 1956 p25 Peter Lady is Relieved as Warden; names his replacement
  25. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 24 Jul 1959 LaGrange was First. photo
  26. ^ Messenger Inquirer, Danville, KY 3 Jul 1965 p9 David Davis Resigns Post at LaGrange
  27. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 12 Nov 1970 p33 Harold Black Named Reformatory Warden
  28. ^ Montgomery Advertiser, AL 29 Dec 1965 p2 Wiman Given Reformatory Warden's Post
  29. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 7 Jul 1967 p5 Acting Superintendent Made Permanent at Reformatory
  30. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 14 Aug 1970 Reformatory Warden Howard is Transferred
  31. ^ The Courier-Journal 15 Dec 1970 p2 Former head of reformatory to leave system - James F. Howard
  32. ^ Paducah Sun, Paducah, KY 20 Aug 1967 p23 photos of superintendents Howard and Mrs. Gail Huecker of Peewee Valley women's institution.
  33. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 7 Aug 1977 p114 Changing of the guard in corrections (Black retires) and Sowders moves up
  34. ^ The Courier-Journal 4 Jan 1979 p2 New warden (Sowders) at Prison plans work-program changes
  35. ^ The Courier-Journal 14 Jan 1979 p20 New warden at La Grange says security is top priority
  36. ^ The Courier-Journal 7 Nov 1980 p2 Warden (Steve Smith) to be replaced at state reformatory (John Rees)
  37. ^ The Courier-Journal, 19 Dec 1980
  38. ^ The Courier-Journal 1 Jul 1986 p5 Reformatory warden (Rees) is leaving for position with private jail firm
  39. ^ The Courier-Journal 30 Jul 1986 p7 Betty Kassulke, female interim warden named at men's prison
  40. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 27 Sep 1986 p7 State appoints new warden (Al Parke) at La Grange reformatory
  41. ^ The Post-Star, Glenn Falls, NY 16 Aug 1992 p39 Ticonderoga woman's son appointed warden
  42. ^ photo The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 30 Jul 1996 p12
  43. ^ Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 27 Nov 2003 p43 Warden closes door on 33-year career - Bill Seabold
  44. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 17 Aug 1996 p6 La Grange warden (William Seabold) is latest new face in a top prison job
  45. ^ The Oldham Era, LaGrange, KY 4 Dec 2003 The Changing of the Guard
  46. ^ Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, KY 14 Jul 2008 Kentucky State Reformatory warden retiring in August after 30 years
  47. ^ Department of Corrections press release 2 Jul 2020 Larry Chandler Named Warden of Southeast State Correctional Complex
  48. ^ Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 25 Jun 2008 pB1 Ind. prisons chief taking Ky. post. Photos: J. David Donahue and Larry Chandler
  49. ^ Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 23 Dec 2009 New Warden Cookie Crews savors challenge.
  50. ^ Kentucky Department of Corrections press release 30 May 2012 Cookie Crews Promoted to Health Services Administrator; Clark Taylor Promoted to Warden at KSR
  51. ^ The Louisville Courier-Journal 16 May 2020 pA2 Kentucky gets new corrections commissioner. Photo
  52. ^ Kentucky Department of Corrections press release 30 May 2012 Cookie Crews Promoted to Health Services Administrator; Clark Taylor Promoted to Warden at KSR
  53. ^ Kentucky Department of Corrections press release 30 April 2014 Clark Taylor to Retire as Warden at KSR; Aaron Smith Promoted to Fill the Post
  54. ^ Kentucky Department of Corrections press release 30 April 2014 Clark Taylor to Retire as Warden at KSR; Aaron Smith Promoted to Fill the Post
  55. ^ Kentucky Department of Corrections press release 29 Jun 2018 Anna Valentine Named Warden at Kentucky State Reformatory
  56. ^ Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY 2 Oct 1975 Forensic Psychiatric Unit Planned
  57. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 13 Apr 1980 p1 Focus on Prison Reform
  58. ^ Federal Probation Quarterly - National Standards for Correctional Reform. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. March 1982. p. 23. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  59. ^ The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY 4 Apr 1980 p1 Settlement of inmates' suit means changes at prisons
  60. ^ The Courier-Journal 8 Mar 1980 p3 Talks begin in lawsuit by inmates. Photo Judge Edward Johnstone will help mediate in dispute
  61. ^ The Courier-Journal 7 Nov 1980 p2 Warden (Steve Smith) to be replaced at state reformatory (John Rees)
  62. ^ The Courier-Journal, 19 Dec 1980
  63. ^ Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, KY 15 Oct 1982 p22 High ratings given to 2 Kentucky prisons; KSR rating 96.3 and LLCC rating 98.6
  64. ^ The Courier-Journal 12 Dec 1979 p13 Pauper's burial planned today for state prisoner
  65. ^ "Friends, family say final goodbyes to Kentucky Kroger shooting victims". NBC News. 2018-11-03. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  66. ^ "Kentucky Kroger Shooting Suspect Charged With Federal Hate Crimes". Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  67. ^ Wolfson, Andrew. "Kentucky man to spend life in prison for shooting two Black shoppers at Kroger store". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  68. ^ "1997 Kentucky school shooter denied parole". ABC News. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  69. ^ Bragg, Rick (1997-12-03). "Forgiveness, After 3 Die in Shootings in Kentucky". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  70. ^ Staff reports. "Plea agreement gets teen life sentence". The Herald-Times. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  71. ^ Archives, L. A. Times (1998-12-17). "Teen Gets Life Sentence for Killing 3 at High School". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  72. ^ "Carneal, Michael A. Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine" Kentucky Department of Corrections. Retrieved on July 20, 2010.
  73. ^ "Two Killed in School Shooting in Kentucky". The New York Times. Associated Press. 1993-01-19. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  74. ^ "The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky". 1995-04-08. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  75. ^ Independent, Kenneth HartThe (2013-01-13). "20 years later: East Carter school shooting". The Independent Online. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  76. ^ "Offender Information - Kentucky Department of Corrections - Offender Online Lookup System".
  77. ^ "Timeline: FBI breaks down criminal history of I-65 killer". Fox 59. 2022-04-05. Archived from the original on 2022-04-05. Retrieved 2022-04-05.


  • Colvin, Mark. Penitentiaries, Reformatories, and Chain Gangs, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.
  • Hayes, Fred E. American Prison System, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1939.
  • Garett, Paul and Austin MacCormick The Handbook of American Prisons, NY: National Society of Penal information, Inc., 1928
  • McKelvey, Blake. American Prisons, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1936.
  • 1981 Supreme Court Case Consent Decree of Kentucky State Penitentiary
  • 2008 Overview of Kentucky State Reformatory, Kentucky Department of Corrections
  • "Assessing Correctional Education Programs: The Student's Perspective", The Journal of Correctional Education

External links[edit]