Monday, March 30, 2009

Old Idaho State Penitentiary

While in Boise this weekend, we took in a bunch of museums. Besides the Basque Museum, and Idaho Historical Museum, we walked through the old Idaho State Penitentiary. This was by far the most interesting of all the museums. It was incredible to us that this state pen. was closed in 1973. It was rustic, let me tell you. The cell Michael is standing in, had only a bucket to go in and no running water. It was in the oldest part of the prison. It was built in the late 1800's.
Here is an example of one of the "newer" cells. They had straw bedding with a toilet and sink. Still very primitive. I'll tell you, if this is what prisoners today had to live in, I think there would be a whole lot less prisons. It looked like these buildings would be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. They had a few radiator heaters in the walk ways.

Here is a picture of one of the guard towers. The brown sand area by the wall was called "No Man's Land". If you stepped into, you could be shot. The walls and the buildings were all made by the prisoners and the sandstone was brought from a nearby quarry.

Here is a picture of the burned-out dining hall and I believe chapel. They were burned in a riot in the early 1970's, that eventually led to the closure of that state pen. They moved the prisoners to a newer, modern one.

Here's a picture of a cell in solitary confinement. It was called "Little Siberia". They would give you a couple of blankets and some wool slippers, a bucket to go in, and no cot. There was one small hole in the ceiling that would let some light in. A lot of times they wouldn't tell the prisoners how long they would be in there. Some would go nuts. It was really creepy, but I'll bet it was effective.

I didn't take a picture of it, but there was also a death row and gallows. In all the years this prison was open, only one prisoner was actually hung from it. I get creeped out by that kind of thing, so I didn't take any pictures of the gallows, drop room, or viewing room.
The women's ward was interesting. I wish I would have taken a few pictures of it. It had stories on the walls of many of the women and their crimes. It was very interesting. If you every have a chance to visit this place, I'd highly recommend it.


Rachel and Family said...

That sounds fascinating. Thanks for posting those pics. I'm going to show the boys.

RaD said...

I went on a field trip to the state penitentiary in sixth grade (cuz I was living in Weiser ID at the time) and I remember some of those places and pictures you posted. Thanks for bringing back memories.


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