CHAPTER 17. ROADS AND HIGHWAYS.
WVC 17 - 5 -
ARTICLE 5. STATE CONVICT ROAD FORCE.
WVC 17 - 5 - 1
§17-5-1. State convict road force; how used.
All male persons convicted of felony and sentenced to
imprisonment or confinement in the penitentiary by any court, or
who may hereafter be sentenced for a felony, whether actually
sentenced to labor or not, or so many thereof as may be required
by the state road commissioner, shall, as incident to such
sentence or confinement, constitute the state convict road force
and as such may be employed under the supervision of the state
road commissioner in building, surfacing and maintaining roads
under the supervision of the state road commissioner, including
all roads in the state road system, and in and about any
quarries, gravel pits, sandbanks, crushers, brick kilns, or other
plants and places operated by the state road commission for the
manufacture and acquisition of materials for use in the
construction, maintenance and repair of such roads.
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§17-5-2. How convict workers selected; monthly report of suitable
The warden of the penitentiary shall prepare for the road
commissioner a monthly report which shall show the names of not
less than five hundred inmates who are suitable for road work.
From the said prepared list of inmates the road commissioner
shall select the number needed for road work.
The warden shall deliver and the road commissioner shall
receive at the penitentiary, convicts selected by the warden to
work on the road.
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§17-5-3. Superior guard and assistants; hours of work of guards
and prisoners; pay of prisoners.
The state convict road force shall be guarded when working
on the roads and in making road materials, and when being
transported to and from the penitentiary, by guards detailed by
the warden, who shall designate one guard as the superior, and
the other or others as assistants. The state guard and
assistants shall obey the rules prescribed for prison camps. Any
guard or assistant not obeying such rules shall, on the
recommendation of the superintendent or engineer in charge of the
work, be immediately recalled, and some other person detailed in
his stead. The wages of each guard, superior and assistant,
shall be fixed by the road commissioner. All guards and
prisoners shall be under the direction of the warden, or his
authority, and shall work not to exceed sixty hours per week, and
each prisoner shall be paid for each work day, not to exceed ten
hours, the sum of ten cents and for time in excess thereof ten
cents per hour for such excess time worked.
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§17-5-4. Housing, feeding and transportation of prisoners.
The state board of health, warden and the state road
commissioner shall promptly formulate rules and regulations
governing the camps essential to the housing of the prisoners,
and the state road commissioner shall provide suitable quarters,
not inconsistent with such rules and regulations, for such
convict road force, to be constructed, when practicable, with
prison labor. He shall supply such force with all necessary
food, cooking utensils, beds and bedding, and provide means of
transportation for such road force and camp equipment, when
necessary, from place to place, or to and from work of such
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§17-5-5. Escape of convict from state road force.
Any penitentiary convict who shall escape from the state
road force, or in going to or returning therefrom, shall be
guilty of a felony and on conviction in the county where the
escape was made, shall be sentenced by the court for a term of
not less than one nor more than two years in addition to the
unserved time of his original sentence; and he shall be returned
to the West Virginia penitentiary; and it is made the duty of all
arresting officers in the state to apprehend such escaped
prisoner and return him to the West Virginia penitentiary where
he will be available for court arraignment in the county where
the escape was made; and the costs shall be paid by the state
road commissioner, and the road commissioner may offer and pay
suitable rewards for his apprehension, and any guard may pursue
and arrest him in any county.
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§17-5-6. Return of convicts to penitentiary because of infirmity,
bad conduct, etc.; trusties.
The state road commissioner or warden shall in all cases
where convicts or prisoners are under his control and supervision
have authority to return any convict or prisoner to the
penitentiary who because of mental or physical infirmity is
unable to work, or whose presence in the camp, due to
insubordination, bad conduct or disposition may impair the
discipline of the road force.
Under the supervision of the warden, or rules promulgated
for the government and discipline of the state convict road force
approved by him, such force, or so many thereof as appear
eligible and trustworthy, shall be made trusties; but reasonable
corrective measures may be taken against trusties who violate
their privileges as such.
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§17-5-7. Medical inspection of convict camps.
It shall be the duty of the state road commissioner to
designate some competent physician or physicians to make
inspection of all camps where a convict road force is employed.
It shall be the duty of such physician to make thorough
investigations of the sanitary conditions of such camps each
sixty days and report every inspection to the governor, together
with such recommendations as he may deem necessary; and he shall
furnish copies thereof to the warden of the penitentiary, the
state road commissioner, the West Virginia board of health, and
the local board of health of the county in which such camp is
located. A reasonable compensation to the physician rendering
such services shall be paid by the commissioner.
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§17-5-8. Convicts in same classification to be placed in same
It shall be the duty of the state road commissioner, with
the assistance of the warden, to organize the penitentiary
convicts in the state road force, as far as practicable, into
groups or classes according to the similarity of their respective
dispositions, temperaments, criminal inclinations, regard for
orderly observance of the rules and general habits respecting
stability or safety, and, as far as practicable, to place those
so classified in separate camps, and particularly to employ or
use in one camp, or class of camps, those youths and first
offenders whose correction, improvement and reclamation may
reasonably be anticipated and whose habits are not dangerous to
their fellow convicts, and for the purpose of effecting such
classifications prisoners may be removed from one camp to
another. All classes of prisoners on the state convict road force
shall be employed and used under such safeguards and in
accordance with such rules and regulations as may be provided by
the road commissioner, the warden and the governor.
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§17-5-9. Commissioner to pay expenses of convicts and cost of
equipment and materials.
The expenses incident to the transportation of convicts and
prisoners, their food, clothing, medical attention and
maintenance while in the state convict road force shall be paid
by the state road commissioner, and all equipment, materials,
tools, teams and machinery necessary in the prosecution of the
work shall be provided out of any funds at his disposal available
for the building, surfacing, paving and completing of the roads
upon which such convicts and prisoners labor. And when a convict
is discharged at camp the commissioner shall pay him any sum due
him and may pay in whole or in part his expenses home.
In any case of a prisoner taken from the penitentiary to a
road convict camp the state road commissioner shall pay for the
per diem cost of feeding, clothing and caring for such prisoners.
WVC 17 - 5 - 10
§17-5-10. Discharge of convicts at expiration of term;
application of section relating to deduction from
sentence for good conduct.
The warden of the penitentiary shall have power to discharge
any prisoner working on the state road force wherever he may be
in the state when the term of such prisoner has expired, and
section twenty-seven, article five, chapter twenty-eight shall
apply to all convicts from the penitentiary on said state road
WVC 17 - 5 - 11
§17-5-11. Commissioner may act through agents and may set up
department of prison labor.
Where anything herein is required or permitted to be done by
the state road commissioner, the same may be done in person or by
superintendents, agents, or employees of the state road
commissioner, upon his authority duly given, and he may set up a
department of prison labor having charge of the agencies and
persons under his authority as herein provided for, and account
for the operations of the state convict road force therein; but
in any event such accounts and operations shall be separately
WVC 17 - 5 - 12
§17-5-12. Work which may be performed by convicts other than on
state road force.
Convicts of either sex not employed in the state convict
road force as provided by article five, chapter seventeen, may be
employed by the warden under the directions of the state
commissioner of public institutions in work for the state
penitentiary or any farm now or hereafter under control of the
state and in work for any public, nonprofit enterprise or program
sponsored by the state or any of its governmental subdivisions,
but such convicts actually confined within the penitentiary and
not available for outside work shall as far as possible, be used
in the making of articles required by the state departments and
institutions. The warden may charge the various state
departments and institutions for such convict-made supplies the
actual costs of the materials used in the manufacture of the
articles furnished them and, in addition thereto, an amount
sufficient to defray the maintenance cost of the prisoners
employed in such manufacture and to keep in repair with suitable
replacements the machinery, tools and appliances used in the
manufacture of such articles, to the extent of the fair market
price thereof, the amount of which shall be stated by the state
commissioner of public institutions. Any articles and supplies
so manufactured and not required by the state departments and
institutions may be sold by the warden to municipalities and
counties and the agencies thereof, or to federal agencies, upon
the same terms and conditions, but in no event shall such
articles be sold to private persons, firms or corporations, or be sold or consumed otherwise than by public departments and
institutions of government.
This article shall not impair any contracts now existing
between the state commissioner of public institutions and any
person, firm or corporation for the use of convict labor for
manufacturing within the walls of the penitentiary, nor prevent
the hiring of convicts either within or without the walls as
otherwise provided by this article.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2015 Regular Session
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