Indiana Reformatory came to Pendleton from Jeffersonville 100 years ago
PENDLETON — Pendleton Correctional Facility is like a community unto itself, Warden Dennis Reagle said. There are 1,550 offenders residing in the maximum-security facility located on Pendleton’s south side.
“A 30-foot wall does a good job of keeping people in,” he said.
But on Wednesday, Nov. 15, Reagle and the some of the staff played host to an event just outside those walls, commemorating the facility’s 100th year in Pendleton.
The event was for the staff — which currently numbers about 440 — as well as local residents.
Attendees could visit the historical room in the facility’s training center and wander around a temporary display set up in a nearby Outside Dormitory (OSD), a minimum-security unit not currently in use; the training center and OSD are both located outside the main walls.
The displays reached as far back as the facility’s founding, which occurred after a fire in 1918 damaged the Indiana Reformatory in Jeffersonville, beginning a process that saw it moved to Pendleton. The reformatory in Pendleton was officially dedicated Sept. 15, 1923.
The information highlighted some high-profile people in the facility’s past, such as the first superintendent, George A. H. Shideler, as well as notorious prisoner John Dillinger, who — according to Dan Fountain, the facility’s unofficial historian (see column below) — spent almost five years locked up in Pendleton.
There were also photographs and items from throughout the facility’s history, ranging from weapons — including guard batons and inmate shanks — to blueprints and other building design plans from throughout the years.
As Pendleton Correctional Facility — previously called Indiana Reformatory — begins its second century in Pendleton, Reagle said the facility would like to become more involved with the greater Pendleton community, in terms of staff and offenders, to the extent possible.
“About 85% of our (offender) population is on board,” Reagle said.
Even though typical inmate sentences are in the range of 20 to 30 years — for a wide range of serious crimes, including murder — most of the general prison population still wants to contribute something positive to the world.They “want to be able to still be relevant,” Reagle said. “Not just be a person who died there in a prison.”
And many of the people will rejoin society on the outside eventually, he said.
Reagle, who has been warden at the facility for three years, said people might not be aware of the many positive things going on inside the facility, from furniture making to knitting blankets for causes.
Items are often donated to charities that have auctions with the items to raise money, he said.
“They do a lot of woodworking,” Reagle said, including building all the park benches at state parks. “We produce a couple of thousand every year.”
Something else people might not know: There are American Legion and Sons of the American Legion posts inside the building. Membership numbers more than 40.
“We’re trying to keep things busy for people, give them something to do each day,” Reagle said.
The facility, located at 4490 W. Reformatory Road, is looking to get back to where it was pre-COVID, when it had about 200 volunteers helping provide programming, such as art classes, to the offenders.
Some other facts about the correctional facility that came up in discussions with Reagle:
- The area inside the perimeter walls measures 48 acres
- There are currently 16 buildings within the walls. Some of those buildings are comprised of multiple structures that have been combined.
- The facility’s maximum capacity is about 2,000 adult males — 1,450 in general population and 240 in Intensive Residential Treatment (both inside the walls, maximum security, Level 3/4), and 220 in the Outside Dormitory (outside the walls, Level 1, minimum security). Currently, there’s a total of 1,550 people incarcerated in the areas inside the walls, while the Outside Dormitory is closed.
- The facility’s annual budget is about $40 million, not including various expenses paid by the state.
- The facility is one of three Indiana Department of Correction institutions in Pendleton: The other two are Correctional Industrial Facility, which, according to its website, is a medium-security facility that was built in the mid-1980s and can house up to 1,400 adult males; and Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, which opened in 2000 and can house up to 391 male individuals.
- The facility has $20 million worth of locks and two locksmiths.
- According to the Pendleton Correctional Facility website:Many of the existing buildings are a product of 1922-1923 construction. Five new housing units were completed in 1985. A new infirmary was completed in 1988, and cell house renovations were completed in 2002, 2005 and 2009.