Created in 1984, the Department of Corrections is responsible for the management and supervision of the Commonwealth’s adult correctional system. Included are all state correctional institutions and regional facilities, as well as community-oriented pre-release facilities, known as community service centers. In the 1920s, Pennsylvania’s major prison facilities were placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Welfare, along with mental health facilities and juvenile institutions. A legislative investigation into major prison riots at Pittsburgh and Rockview in 1952 led to the establishment of a Bureau of Correction within the Department of Justice to oversee reforms and to operate the system. Governor John S. Fine signed the bill on August 31, 1953. In 1980, the attorney general became an elected rather than an appointed position, and the bureau was transferred from the Justice Department to the newly created Office of General Counsel within the governor’s office. Four years later, the bureau was elevated to departmental status through legislation proposed and signed by Gov. Dick Thornburgh. During 1989 through 1990, David S. Owens Jr., an African American, was the commissioner of the Department of Corrections.


Newspaper Clippings, 1953-1985 (17 cartons) Newspaper articles about the state prison system and its inmates including such African Americans as William Cook, Mumia Abu Jamal, Phil William Africa, William Hines, and Eugene Lambert. Some of the photographs relating to African Americans in this file depict blind youth Gerald Sheasley, Mohammed Salaihdeen, students laying bricks, chess games, musicians, and the White Hill Industrial School. For earlier information on the penal system, refer to RG-15, RECORDS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.

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