Arizona - Yuma Prison

Yuma Territorial Prison

The original entrance to the prison. Even though escape seems fairly easy from this now-primitive mud fortress, where would you go if you escaped? Yuma was barely a dot on the map, and traveling any direction without supplies would guarantee death. That's why only 2 prisoners actually made it out from within the prison walls. (In the interest of full disclosure, another 24 escaped before being incarcerated, but the individual circumstances of each case may have made escape somewhat easier to pull off and maintain.)

The main guard tower (see the sign).

Dead prisoners, pretty much all due to diseases such as tuberculosis, were buried here outside prison walls but still on the property.

This clock was rescued from an old Yuma saloon and brought onto prison property. The reversed numerals allowed drunk patrons to read the clock while facing forward and looking in the bar mirrors, rather than risk them turning around and falling off their stools. (I promise you this is the actual clock and not a reversed photo. Otherwise I'd have had no reason to take it.)

Before I devote the rest of the photos to inside prison walls, this is the view northward along the Colorado River. You might say people would kill for a view like this.

Various views of the inner walls of the prison. The prisoners constructed their own prison piece by piece, including later additions as the population grew, which is entirely in line with the modern principle of rehabilitating rather than punishing (although hard manual labor may be considered both).

Now, various views of the prison cells. You can see the Interstate 8 freeway outside the fourth photo, but there was once much more of a wall to discourage anyone from leaping to freedom. If this were still a prison, the railroad would afford easy escape.

As part of prison expansion, prisoners built the new courtyard, which curiously only had the one "low entrance" from the rest of the prison. The newer cells may have been more desirable, but the courtyard looks rather... let's just say "not unwarm." Parrt of the reason may be due to its construction from adobe instead of stone.

Some of the amenities of the jail, some more amenable than others. The plow represents that prisoners were put to work instead of just sitting and walking out their punishment. Many, but not all, of the chores were related either to jail construction (as I've discussed) or farming. The prison was self-sustaining in regard to the latter. The bell was used to call prisoners in from chores (to meals or bed).

Speaking of beds, that bed doesn't look very comfortable, but it would be a whole lot less comfortable for the unfortunate prisoner chained to the lock embedded in the ground. Misbehavior was not tolerated. In a similar vein, the steel contraption in the last photo was a housing for maximum-security facility controls. Those levers opened and closed doors to control the flow and access of prisoners within the grounds.

Our final stop is the Dark Cell, one of the punishment methods at the prison. With rock walls and a steel floor, this place was likely an effective deterrent for most prisoners from acting up. If it looks dark in the last two photos, imagine what happens when the door closes and the sun goes down. It's the 19th-century version (well, maybe very early 20th) of solitary confinement.

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