Facility Recognition

Oklahoma State Penitentiary
September 1908

Construction of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary began in 1908 when the Oklahoma Legislature set aside 1,556 acres of land northwest of McAlester and appropriated $850,000 for the state's first prison. Prior to statehood in 1907, all felons convicted in Oklahoma Territory were sent to the Kansas State Penitentiary.

The West Cellhouse and Administration Building were the first structures completed at the penitentiary site. The Rotunda and East Cellhouse were added later and additional buildings have been constructed on an as-needed basis.

At first, women inmates were housed on the fourth floor of the West Cellhouse. The female population had grown to 26 by the time a separate building about one mile west of the main institution was completed in 1926.

The most costly prison riot in the history of the nation broke out on July 27, 1973. Damage was estimated to be between $20 million and $40 million.

A federal court in 1978 found conditions at the penitentiary unconstitutional. Consequently, four new housing units were built and in 1984 the aging East and West Cellhouses were closed.

The Talawanda Heights Minimum Security Unit was opened outside the East Gate Area in October of 1989 to house inmates utilized by the host facility in institutional support positions.

A Special Care Unit was opened July 20, 1992, to ensure that the needs of special management offenders are met. This unit provides mental health care to offenders, thereby reducing the need for long-term hospitalization outside the facility.

A medium security unit with a capacity of 140 inmates is located on "G" and "I" units. It is designed to provide a safe and secure environment for medium security inmates to more successfully adjust to the transition to a lower security classification.

The newest addition, "H Unit," provides new quarters for disciplinary segregation inmates, death row, and the lethal injection death chamber. H Unit also houses Administrative Segregation and Level III general population inmates.

Joseph Harp Correctional Center
September 1978

Joseph Harp Correctional Center is a medium security institution, located eight miles east of Lexington in south central Oklahoma. It consists of 39 buildings, 13 acres of institutional property, and six acres of Oklahoma State Industry property. The facility officially opened on September 16, 1978, and received its first inmates two days later.

The site of the facility was used by the Navy as a firing range during World War II. After the war, the land was turned over to the Mental Health Department, which in turn, transferred it to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in 1971.

The facility was named after the late Joseph Harp, who served as warden of the Oklahoma State Reformatory from 1949 to 1969. Warden Harp's enlightened attitude toward corrections has greatly impacted Oklahoma corrections today.

Nicknamed "Harp City," the facility was originally built to house 415 inmates, but it currently double cells more than 900. Most inmates at JHCC are long-term offenders.

The JHCC chapel assists many inmates in their personal quest for spiritual growth and development. The many religious volunteers, representing various faiths, provide a milieu conducive to religious study and counseling. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other religious groups are given accessibility and assistance as they worship during their respective conferences, festivals, and celebrations. Other chapel programs are created to assist inmates and their families in the development of effective strategies for living.


Bill Johnson Correctional Center
September 1995

It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of all inmates currently incarcerated in the state of Oklahoma have drug or alcohol problems. Clearly, a significant factor in our prison overcrowding. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has developed a new approach to deal with our drug offender incarceration rate.

At the Charles E. "Bill" Johnson Correctional Center (BJCC), in Alva, Oklahoma, a multi-phase drug offender work camp program designed to break this cycle is in progress. Utilizing the discipline of the military boot camp model combined with intensive drug treatment and a labor intensive work program, BJCC will provide inmates an opportunity for positive change by instilling personal responsibility and strong work ethics.

Inmates will receive orientation through the first 12-week phase of boot camp to include strict regimentation, drill, ceremony, inspections, labor intensive work, and physical fitness. The inmate then will progress through two levels, concentrating on substance abuse treatment and education programs to earn increased privileges as they accept responsibility.

The final phase, a one-year after care program, will follow the inmate to assess his ability to apply the program's discipline to avoid future drug offenses.

As a catalyst in the pursuit of the correctional center, the facility's namesake, Charles E. "Bill" Johnson, was instrumental in persuading the Department of Corrections to locate in Alva. When he learned about the possibility of such a program being placed in a community in Oklahoma, Mr. Johnson recruited many of his friends and business associates to help in the pursuit of making the facility a reality.

Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson died on February 18, 1995, at the age of 66, and was not able to see the completion of the facility that he had worked so hard and faithfully to bring to his home town. He would, however, be pleased to know that the Charles E. "Bill" Johnson Correctional Center is providing more than 100 jobs for this area of the state. He also would be pleased to know that because of his efforts and those of his friends and colleagues, the inmates at this facility will be provided the opportunity to change their habits for life.