The Old Idaho Penitentiary, located in Boise, Idaho, is a historical site that offers a glimpse into the past and a unique look at the state’s criminal justice system. The penitentiary was in operation from 1872 to 1973 and was home to some of Idaho’s most notorious criminals. Today, it serves as a museum, showcasing the history and evolution of the state’s penal system.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary was built in 1870 with the purpose of providing a safe and secure place to hold convicted criminals. Over its 101 years of operation, the penitentiary housed over 13,000 prisoners, including women and juveniles, as well as notorious outlaws like Harry Orchard and Robert Waters. The prison was designed with a “penal labor” philosophy, meaning that prisoners were expected to work while they served their sentence. They performed various tasks, such as farm labor, building construction, and maintenance.
The penitentiary’s design was unique for its time, with a central yard surrounded by cells and workshops. The cells were small and cramped, with iron bars and heavy doors, providing little room for movement. The prison was known for its harsh conditions and strict discipline, with a focus on rehabilitation and reformation.
Visitors to the Old Idaho Penitentiary can take a self-guided tour, exploring the various cell blocks, workshops, and yard. The museum showcases various exhibits, including photographs, artifacts, and interactive displays, providing a comprehensive look at the history of the penitentiary and the state’s criminal justice system. Visitors can also see the gallows where the state’s executions took place, including the last execution in 1957.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Old Idaho Penitentiary is the way it has been preserved. Many of the original structures, such as the cell blocks and workshops, have been restored and remain largely unchanged since the prison’s closure. This provides visitors with a unique look into the past and a vivid sense of what life was like for the prisoners and guards.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary also offers a number of educational programs and events throughout the year, including living history demonstrations, special exhibitions, and workshops. These programs provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the history of the prison and the criminal justice system in Idaho.
In conclusion, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is a fascinating and important historical site, providing a unique look into the past and the evolution of the state’s criminal justice system. Whether you’re a history buff, a student, or just interested in learning more about the state’s past, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is a must-visit destination in Boise, Idaho.