Friday, October 14, 2016

How We Ended Up In Prison

No crimes were committed.  Ha, ha!  Quite simply.  We drove.

On Saturday October 1st I took the girls and a couple of our dear friends to tour the Old Idaho Penitentiary.  It was the fourth time I've been since we moved to Boise in 1974 but it had been so long since I'd been the last time it was like a whole new adventure once again.

From the outside it looks pretty darn fancy for a prison.  But inside tells a whole different story.  The architecture on the exterior of the buildings and the prison walls is quite lovely, however.

Three tiers of cells reside inside this building

Four inmates shared this cell

Interiors, not so much.  A lot of the prison, which began in 1872 as a federal territorial prison, was built by the prisoners out of sandstone from a nearby quarry.  Quite the labor force, I imagine, which saved a ton of money on the cost to build the place.  It became the state prison once Idaho took statehood soon after.

Weapons made by prisoners and confiscated out in the yard

Guards room on one of the tiers

As we toured the facilities it is quite obvious that as time went on and the prison was added onto conditions did improve somewhat and they made the cells larger.  Even still, it was quite cramped quarters and wouldn't be very pleasant, especially in the cold of winter and heat of summer.  Heating was iffy and cooling was pretty much nonexistent in most of these buildings.

As we walked along my youngest remarked that visiting this place was really good incentive not to break the law and get in trouble.  I couldn’t agree more.
Death row

Death row and the gallows where prisoners were executed is located in the maximum security building.  Hanging was the method of execution in Idaho up until 1957 when the federal government placed a moratorium on all executions.  As a result of that ruling his new gallows only executed one prisoner.

Inside the witness room for executions

Notice the trapdoor in the floor and the lever

A noose would be suspended from the ceiling

This is where the hanging prisoner was retrieved after his execution

When the moratorium was lifted in 1972 hanging was no longer an option in Idaho for executions.  Firing squad became the new method but was never used.  Now lethal injection remains the only option.  Idaho has never executed a woman. 

Dairy barn

Horse stables

The cannery


Model prisoners, or trustys, were allowed to work the farm.  I found that part of the prison to be exceptionally nice.  I love the dairy barn built in 1920 and the stable which was built in 1911.  The old farmland is now the Idaho Botanical Gardens which we'll go see another time.  Even the outbuildings are pretty nice.

They’ve added two new museums to the place since I was here last too.  The weapons museum is really neat and is located inside the prison grounds.  The displays were amazing as well as the collection of guns, rifles, swords, etc.  We were all quite fascinated.

Along with the weapons museum they've add a mineral and geology museum so we checked it out too.  At the gift shop the girls each picked out a set of magnetic rocks.  I couldn't believe they chose them over the pretty bracelets, but they are a lot of fun.

In 1920 the women's ward was added just outside the main prison walls.  To read some of the offenses committed by some of these women made the men look rather tame by comparison.

Guards dormitory

Bishops house

Warden's House
Just outside of the prison is the Guard's dormitory which is now office space.  The Bishops house which is absolutely lovely is used now for events, primarily weddings and receptions, and the Warden's house.  Again, really beautiful architecture.

The prison closed its doors in 1973 and the inmates were moved to the new modern correctional center located outside of Boise.  By comparison they look nothing alike.  The new prison looks like a typical modern day concrete slab prison.

Easily you could spend an entire day out here and not see everything, which is probably why I've been so many times.  I find it and all of its history rather fascinating.  My youngest did too so I checked out a book at the library for us to read so we can get a little more in-depth information.

We love to visit museums and historical places.


  1. I wonder who would have a wedding at the event center....
    Thank you for Sharing!!

    1. Seriously, I know. But it is a very popular venue. Personally, I wouldn't.

  2. Super interesting photos/post!


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