The West Virginia State Penitentiary on May 25 will host a book-signing with C.J. Plogger, author of a new book documenting the life of Maggie Gray, a female corrections officer at the former maximum-security prison.
Plogger will be on hand Thursday at 10 a.m. in the lobby of the penitentiary-turned-museum that dominates the southern reach of the Ohio River town.
According to Plogger, Gray started working at the facility in 1987 and was one of the first women to work in North Hall, its maximum-security unit.
Plogger said she wants to chronicle the lives of the dwindling number of people who have worked at the facility, which opened in 1876 and closed in 1995.
“There are few people left that have experienced what it was like inside this prison when it was still in operation. We want readers to feel the reality of the ‘harsh environment’ and to learn about what life was like both living and working inside,” she said.
The author worked to capture the challenges of the position in light of the time and place through Gray’s experience:
“We (correctional officers) are looked down on. People think that we are just a bunch of bullies that do nothing but beat up convicts. That’s not true. That’s not true,” Maggie Gray recalls in the novel.
“Male correctional officers looked upon us (female officers) as someone else to be responsible for. Until you proved yourself, you were shoved back in the corner.”
Poggle said she hopes the book will also inspire readers to visit Moundsville and the penitentiary.
“We want readers to come, take a tour, and, as we walk through the halls, we want you to envision how it was — see and hear what life was like. I hope this opens up another historical aspect of the prison.”
The book “Life at The West Virginia Penitentiary: The Story of Maggie Gray” is available on Amazon.com and in many regional bookstores.