Prison Labor Camp
Colonel Franklin Matthias, commander of the Hanford Engineer Works, negotiated a contract with Federal Prison Industries, a US government agency responsible for finding uses for and deploying inmate labor. Under the contract, the army would build and maintain a prison camp on the Hanford Site. When it opened on February 1, 1944, the camp consisted of 11 wooden buildings salvaged from a former Civilian Conservation Camp in Montana. They served as offices, a hospital, mess hall, and storage buildings. The inmates lived in Quonset hut barracks identical to those that housed construction workers at Hanford. Later, an additional dozen smaller Quonset huts housed administrators and prison guards, plus their families. There was no security fence because there was no need for one. There was no place to go. Most men served their time without incident. Twelve prisoners escaped from Camp Columbia but were quickly apprehended. The prisoners harvested crops from 550 acres of orchards, 280 acres of hay and potatoes, 125 acres of vineyards, and 73 acres of asparagus. Altogether, they harvested nearly 5,669 tons of produce.