Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yuma Territorial Prison

Location: Yuma, AZ

In 1876, 36 years before Arizona was to become a State, the Yuma Territorial Prison opened for business. Now a state park, the Territory's first prison once held, at various times, over 3000 men and women whose crimes ranged from grand larceny to polygamy to murder.

The cellblock can now be toured, and one cell has been equipped with the original furnishings -- two sets of triple bunk beds made of metal. A chain is attached to the middle bunk for the top-bunk prisoner to use as a hoist. The only other thing that would have been in the cells when they were in use was a large bucket that served as the toilet.

Predictably, the prison became overcrowded and closed in 1909 when a new prison took its place. From 1910 to 1914, the Yuma High School moved into the prison when their school building burned. They got a new mascot name while there and it stuck -- to this day the team is called the "Yuma Criminals." I'm guessing that's a unique team name!

An acting troop was performing a "wild west" skit while we were there. It was rather hokey, with a lot of shooting, stage dying, and a bad story line that seemed to involve men drinking rot-gut alcohol so strong that they immediately grew long hair, and women who then wanted to shoot them. Maybe the women just wanted their wigs back?


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