Michigan State Prisons in Ionia County

     Ionia County is the home for five Michigan State Prisons.  Many people searching their roots in Ionia find some connection with the prison industry.  Many prison records are available at the State Archives in Lansing. 

     You can access the CENTRAL RECORDS DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF THE MICHIGAN STATE POLICE. There you will find information on how to obtain Criminal History Records.

Riverside Correctional Facility
777 Riverside Drive
Ionia, Michigan 48846

     The building of the Ionia State Hospital was authorized in 1883 and was opened under the name of the Michigan Asylum for Insane Criminals in 1885. It was found that this name was objectionable as not all of the patients in the hospital were criminals, so the name was changed by legislative action to Ionia State Hospital. The patients committed to this hospital were insane felons, criminal sexual psychopaths, insane convicts from other prisons, patients transferred from other state institutions that had developed dangerous or homicidal tendencies and persons charged with a crime but acquitted on the grounds of insanity. Initially the hospital patients were housed at the site of the Michigan Reformatory. The hospital was called the North Branch and the farm located on Riverside Drive was called the South Branch. When a large fire broke out at the hospital, all of the rooms were needed to house prisoners, so all of the hospital patients were sent to the South Branch farm. Since that time, the hospital has been located on the grounds of the Riverside Correctional Facility. Until 1972, the hospital was used for the treatment of the mentally ill as well as the criminally insane. Now, there are no civilians at the hospital. Riverside is still in operation as a correctional facility. The acutely, mentally ill prisoners are treated in the Mental Health Hospital in Ypsilanti, but those inmates that are chronically ill are still housed at Riverside. The institution , in it's beginning was under the direct supervision of Dr. O. R. Long, his assistant, Dr. W.F. Maxwell and a board of trustees. 1906 Board of Trustees consisted of Hon. J. W. Belknap of Greenville, F. A. Washburn of Belding, and E. M. Hopkins of Detroit. The Board of Trustees prior to 1906 consisted of the following gentlemen: A. H. Piper of Detroit, John Heffron of Detroit, George W. Stevenson of St. Johns, Hampton Rich of Ionia, Moreau S. Crosby of Grand Rapids, Jerome Croul of Detroit, D. O. Watson of Coopersville, Milo D. Campbell of Coldwater, Orlando M. Barnes of Lansing, Francis F. Palms of Detroit, Edward Duffy of Ann Arbor, C. C. Vaughn of St. Johns, W. H. Mattison of Ionia and J. H. Lancashire of Alma.

Pictures of the State Asylum

Ionia Maximum Facility
1576 W. Bluewater Highway
Ionia, Michigan 48846

Ionia Temporary Facility
1755 Harwood Road
Ionia, Michigan 48846

Michigan Reformatory
1342 W. Main Street
Ionia, Michigan 48846

     At a legislative session in 1875, money was set aside to build the State House of Corrections. In 1877 the first prisoners were transferred from Jackson Prison to assist with the building of this prison. It was completed in 1880. The prison was re-named in 1901 and is still known today as the Michigan Reformatory. The Reformatory was used as a maximum security prison for youthful offenders. Reformatory inmates were employed in various projects until 1935 when the sale of these projects to the public was prohibited. Articles that were made and sold until that time were reed furniture, shirts, soap, hosiery and furniture. There was also a large farm to raise meat and produce to be used by the prison inmates.
     Wardens at the prison have been John J. Graftor 1877-1881, Maj. E. C. Watkins 1881-1883, David R. Waters 1883-1885, Maj. E. C. Watkins 1885-1891, Eugene Parsell 1891-1894, Otis Fuller 1894-1906. Members of the Board of Control have been A. H. Piper of Detroit -1881, J. T. Escott of Big Rapids-1881, George W. Buckingham of Flint - 1881, John Heffron of Detroit - 1883, M. S. Crosby of Grand Rapids - 1885, Hampton Rich of Ionia - 1883, Jerome Croul of Detroit - 1887, Milo D. Campbell of Coldwater - 1891, Edward Duffy of Ann Arbor - 1891, F. F. Palms of Detroit - 1887, O. M. Barnes of Lansing - 1891, N. B. Hayes of Muir - 1893, James Hurst of Wyandotte - 1893, Louis Kanitz of Muskegon, 1893, J. H. Bishop of Wyandotte - 1897, C. C. Vaughan of St. Johns - 1809, Amos Musselman of Grand Rapids - 1899, Alfred Locke of Ionia - 1901, Joseph Weinhold of Jackson - 1903

Pictures of the Michigan Reformatory

Richard A. Handlon-Michigan Training Unit
1728 W. Bluewater Highway
Ionia, Michigan 48846

     The Michigan Training Unit was opened in 1955 with Richard Handlon at it's first superintendent. It is used primarily as a medium security prison for the more educable prisoners.


     No discussion about Ionia County Michigan genealogy would be complete without addressing the county's state prisons.  The following information is found at the State Archives of Michigan in Lansing :

     The Records from the three major correctional facilities of Michigan (Ionia, Jackson, and Marquette) can provide a wealth of information for anyone seeking specific details concerning inmates serving prison sentences. The information contained in these records is unclassified and open to the public. Records relating to youthful offenders are closed . Comprehensive card indexes to all adults and juveniles serving time in State facilities are available in the reading room of the Archives. This includes training schools and penitentiaries.


RG 83-86 Prisoner index card catalog dated ca. 1839-1980. Offers the names of prisoners serving in Michigan's correctional institutions providing length of sentences, dates of sentence, registration or identification number, and counties where crimes occurred. Includes any escape attempts as well as parole or discharge dates. A few index cards include photographs of inmates. Arranged alphabetically by prisoner name (series 1).


RG 64-53 Description of inmates, 1874-1892. Offers date, registration number, nativity, offense, sentence, residence, race, height, and personal description. Entry is chronological (series 7).

Record of prisoners, ca. 1885-1944. Gives inmate number, name, county of residence, dates received, sentence, education, and physical description (series 8).

RG 80-27 Register of inmates dated 1874-1883, 1925, 1926, 1928. Offers date of sentence, registration number, name, term, date and kind of discharge. Arranged chronologically by date of sentence and numerically by registration number (series 14).

Alphabetical register of inmates dated 1919-1922; 1926-1935. Offers date of sentence, registration number, name, term of assignment, "lock, cell, ward," expiration of sentence, plus kind and date of discharge (series 15).

Register of residents dated 1888-1960. Offers name, alias, registration number, date of sentence, physical description, when received, age, past occupation, marital status, nationality, citizenship, nature of crime, as well as criminal history. Arranged chronologically by date received (series 16). Index to register of residents dated ca. 1883-1908; ca. 1940. Offers name, register number, and date of expiration. Arranged alphabetically by first letter of surname (series 17).


Record Group 77-3 Mental Health Ionia Hospital Record of TB 1922-1966


Record Group 66-73 Ionia County Minutes of Superintendent 1919-1930

Record Group 76-133 Ionia County Resident Register 1876-1943

Ionia County Cash Journal 1920-1948

Record Group 83-26 Ionia County Admission List 1906-1967


Last update 1/4/2008