Chester County Prison


The Chester County Prison has also been a significant employer in the township since 1958. The current prison was opened in 1959, and subsequently renovated and expanded in 1983.  In 1993, a new Pre-Release/Work Release Center was constructed on prison property.  This is one of only four prison structures used as the county jail since Chester County was incorporated by William Penn in 1682, as one of the three original counties constituting Pennsylvania. The first County House of Correction and Workhouse was located in Chester, the original county seat.  In 1786, following the move of the county seat to West Chester, jail cells were built in the rear of the new Courthouse.  In 1839, the county built its first off-site jail at Market and New Streets in West Chester. Subsequent alterations and additions were made  up until 1941, but by 1951 the county recognized that this structure was in poor condition, and it was declared unsafe by the Department of Labor and Industry.

 A Citizens Survey Committee was appointed by the county commissioners to recommend a replacement.  Their final report recommended that the West Chester jail be abandoned, the site be sold and land then owned by the County Institution District next to the Pocopson Home be acquired for the new prison, with the intent to develop a prison farm. The original plan for the new structure was for a total prison population of 142, but this was felt to be too conservative, and a longer-term population projection eventually raised this figure to 171 prisoners, to be housed in 128 medium security cells, 24 maximum security cells, 15 female cells and 4 juvenile cells.

 Cost for the new structure was estimated to be $2.5 million.  This was considered to be expensive at the time, but state law required that new prison construction allow separate cells for each prisoner.

While the prison was being built, authorities were considering what it should be called.  Early nominations were “Rolling Hills,” “Fairfields,” and “Locust Hill.”  Later, “Green Acres” was added, but eventually nixed because a farm near Kennett had born that name for years.  Then, “William Penn Farm” was entered as a candidate.  However, by late 1958, the more prosaic “Chester County Farms” was selected.  In January, 1959, the Honorable J. Paul MacElree, President Judge of the County Orphans Court,  made the dedicatory address.

More information on the history of the Chester County prison system can be found at: