West

The making of MCI-Norfolk: Highlights from the prison’s past

1927

The state deploys prison inmates to begin construction of a new facility in Norfolk.

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1932

The Norfolk State Prison Colony gains recognition as the country’s first “community-based” prison. Inmates can study such subjects as debating, gardening, music, and ­drama.

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1942

Norfolk inmates volunteer to be human guinea pigs in medical experiments for the World War II effort.

1943

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Norfolk inmates buy enough war bonds to have an Army bomber named for Arthur St. Germain, a 27-year-old prisoner from Haverhill who died after being injected with an experimental ­serum.

1945

The US Navy commends Norfolk inmates for participating in the wartime experiments.

1948

Malcolm Little, the future Malcolm X, is transferred to Norfolk.

1953

Norfolk’s debate team beats Harvard — for the sixth time.

Mid-1950s

The facility is renamed the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Norfolk.

SOURCES: Massachusetts Department of Correction; Boston Globe archives; Harvard Crimson archives; “They Did Their Share, 1942-1945: A Report by the War Effort Committee, State Prison Colony — Norfolk, Massachusetts”
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