Saturday, March 7, 2015

Yuma Territorial Prison

Yuma Territorial Prison accepted its first inmate on July 1, 1876. For the next 33 years 3,069 prisoners, including 29 women, served sentences here for crimes ranging from murder to polygamy. The prison was under continuous construction with labor provided by the prisoners. In 1909 the last prisoner left the Territorial Prison for the newly constructed Arizona State Prison Complex located in Florence, Arizona. 
Only a small portion of the prison complex has been restored or added to as a representation. The arched doorway is the entry to the prisoner's compound. The tall roofed building to the left is the main guard tower. To the left of the guard tower is what is now the visitor's center. The superintendent's office, stables, and the guard's quarters would have been located there. The superintendent's house and more guard towers would have been to the right of the lawn.
Here is the interior of the guard tower.
Here is a nice view from the guard tower. The prison sits along the Colorado River. The bridges on the right side of the picture cross the river to California. The brown bridge is for trains and the one behind it is for vehicle and foot traffic.
The yard behind the prison entry building had a prisoner workshop at one time. This area had a high wall spanning the distance to the guard tower.
Here is your final look outside the prison other than the sky above the walls, as you come to stay!
This building was built in 1939 on the foundation of the original mess hall.
Welcome to your new home in the territorial prison! Each cell has two steel latticework doors that are completely open to bugs, rodents, and the weather! The cells on the left are single room cells housing 6 adults to a room and the cells on the right have two adjoining cells housing 12 adults!
Enjoy your stay!
The sign in the cell says these iron bunk beds were built in 1901 and replaced the wooden bunks in order to rid the cell house of bed bugs. That's 25 years after the prison took in the first inmate! I wonder how many years they suffered with bedbugs!!!
Here is Roy's tourist photo!
Here is my tourist photo! I wore my prison orange tee shirt for our visit to the prison, but back in the 1800's it would have been black and white stripes.
This is a gravel yard in back of the cell block.
The center door is the ominous "dark cell" for punishing non compliant prisoners. The other doors weren't open to the public, but are probably storage.
Here is a look into the dark cell. There would have been a metal lattice cage in the center of the room.
Through the far doorway from the previous gravel yard is this larger gravel yard. This was probably an expansion, as the prison grew. The doorways along the white building are cells.
It's interesting that the cells face into the exercise yard.  It seems like a place that would lend itself to prisoners taunting other prisoners!
This is the prison as it would have looked in the 1800s. Prior to the Colorado River being controlled through dams, the water would have come up around the rocky mound on which the prison was built.
When researching the prison, I came across an interesting tidbit! I learned that Yuma Union High School occupied the  prison buildings from 1910-1914! When the school's football team played against Phoenix and unexpectedly won, the Phoenix team called the Yuma team "criminals". Yuma High adopted the nickname and sometimes shorten the name to the "Crims". The school's symbol is the face of a hardened criminal and the student merchandise shop is called the Cell Block!
Isn't this a cute team photo!