Facility Facts

In light of the recent announcement that the Michigan Reformatory will reopen and the Riverside Correctional Facility will close by October 1, here's a bit of historical information on both*:

Riverside Correctional Facility

What we know as Riverside Correctional Facility today began as a psychiatric hospital. The building of the Ionia State Hospital was authorized in 1883 and was opened under the name of the Michigan Asylum for Insane Criminals in 1885. It was found that this name was objectionable as not all of the patients in the hospital were criminals, so the name was changed by legislative action to Ionia State Hospital.

The patients committed to this hospital were insane felons, criminal sexual psychopaths, insane convicts from other prisons, patients transferred from other state institutions that had developed dangerous or homicidal tendencies and persons charged with a crime but acquitted on the grounds of insanity.

Initially the hospital patients were housed at the site of the Michigan Reformatory. The hospital was called the North Branch and the farm located on Riverside Drive was called the South Branch. When a large fire broke out at the hospital, all of the rooms were needed to house prisoners, so all of the hospital patients were sent to the South Branch farm. Since that time, the hospital has been located on the grounds of the Riverside Correctional Facility.

The hospital was used to treat the mentally ill as well as the criminally insane until 1972, when civilians were removed from the hospital. In 1977, the Legislature transferred the operation to the Department of Corrections when it began operation as a correctional facility. The facility is scheduled to close with the reopening of the Michigan Reformatory.

Michigan Reformatory

At a legislative session in 1875, money was set aside to build the State House of Corrections at Ionia. In 1877 the first prisoners were transferred from Jackson Prison to assist with the building of this prison, which was opened for the confinement of the younger and less hardened offenders. It was completed in 1880. The prison was re-named in 1901 and is still known today as the Michigan Reformatory. By March 1929, the institution had a population of 2,200. Normal capacity of the prison was 1,148 and the overcrowded conditions were reflected in the riot of 1926.

Reformatory inmates were employed in various projects until 1935 when the sale of these projects to the public was prohibited. Articles that were made and sold until that time were shirts, soap, hosiery and furniture. There was also a large farm to raise meat and produce to be used by the prison inmates. The facility was closed in December of 2001, with most of the inmates housed there transferred to Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility. It is scheduled to reopen with the closing of Riverside Correctional Facility.

*source: MDOC and rootsweb.com


Michigan Department of Corrections, FYI Newsletter 041907