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The Board of Trustees of the New Castle County Workhouse was created in 1899 when the Legislature authorized construction of the new county prison. The trustees were to be appointed by the judges of the Superior Court and the Court of General Sessions to serve five-year terms. The five trustees appointed were required to be residents of New Castle County but not all of the same political party.
The 1899 legislation required the Levy Court to issue bonds to raise money for the workhouse. This money was turned over to the Board of Trustees so that they could purchase land, construct, and furnish the workhouse. The Board was given title to the property and had complete control of and management responsibilities for the prison. It appointed all wardens, keepers, officers, and other necessary personnel and provided the tools, food, clothing and all other necessities for the “safe keeping, maintenance, and betterment of the inmates.”1 In 1913 the Trustees were also given responsibility for the jail in the new city-county building in Wilmington. This jail was used for temporary detention only.2
The Board of Trustees was required to take all prisoners sentenced to imprisonment by any New Castle County Court, including the Wilmington Municipal Court and Justices of the Peace.3 The criminal courts of Kent and Sussex Counties were also permitted to send prisoners to the Workhouse, although the Levy Courts of those counties were required to pay for said prisoner’s maintenance.4 Incorrigible minors from Ferris School were permitted to be placed in the Workhouse, although the Trustees of Ferris School had to reimburse the Workhouse Trustees for the minor’s maintenance as did Kent and Sussex Counties.5 The Trustees could make agreements with the Levy Court, private individuals, or corporations for use of a convict’s labor as each prisoner was required to work eight hours a day.6 The Board was responsible also for carrying out sentences of corporal punishment.7
The Board of Trustees was required to keep a number of records. The Trustees presented an annual report to the Levy Court in which they discussed conditions at the Workhouse, provided detailed statements of receipts and expenditures, and made suggestions and recommendations. They also submitted an annual budget to the Levy Court which listed expenses of operation, maintenance of prisoners committed from New Castle County, and payments of interest and principal on outstanding bonds.8 The Board was required to keep accurate books of accounts which had to be audited by the County Comptroller each year. Also, a daily record of each prisoner’s behavior was maintained so that inmates could receive reduction of sentence for good behavior.9 In 1917 the Workhouse adopted a card system to replace the volumes previously used to maintain inmates records. Beginning the next fiscal year, December 3, 1918, a new bookkeeping system was instituted to better assist in keeping an accurate record of all institutional receipts and expenses.10
The Board of Trustees of the New Castle County Workhouse was abolished on July 1, 1956, when its responsibilities were given to the newly created State Board of Corrections (RG 1606). The State Board of Corrections was given the responsibility, formerly exercised by county agencies, for care, supervision, and administration of all prisons, correctional facilities, and prisoners.11

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1 Ibid.

2 27 D.L., ch. 201

3 21 D.L., ch. 247

4 23 D.L., ch. 126

5 46 D.L., ch. 201

6 27 D.L., ch. 271; 32 D.L., ch. 202

7 23 D.L., ch. 125

8 21 D.L., ch. 247; 43 D.L., ch. 214

9 21 D.L., ch. 247

10New Castle County Workhouse Biennial Report, 1917 – 1918, pp. 8, 27

11 50 D.L., ch. 486
rlg/June 1, 1988; July 26, 1988; January 4, 1989

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