Yuma Territorial Prison, AZ
Welcome to the Hell Hole of the West! Yuma Territorial Prison, so nicknamed for the skin-pealing summer temperatures or for the dreaded “dark cell” used to punish unruly inmates. Built in 1787, Yuma Territorial Prison housed over 3,069 prisoners in the thirty-three years before it was decommissioned. Many men and even 29 women were imprisoned here for crimes such as theft, murder, bank robbery, adultry, and polygamy.
Six men were stacked three deep in each 9X12 cell. These accommodations might seem primitive to us. However, this facility had more modern amenities than most homes in the city of Yuma, which made the citizen despise the prisoners even more. Inmates had access to electricity, forced ventilation, flush toilets, 2 bathtubs, 3 showers, on-site hospital, and a 2,000 book library!
So just what could a new inmate expect upon arrival?
The historical society did a wonderful job displaying high-interest pictures and information about this fascinating historical landmark. The perimeter of the room is draped with inmate banners like championship penets in a high school gym. Here are a few that stood out to me. The factual information displayed of each inmate was dizzying. I found the reading about C.E. Hobart particularly interesting. I think the juxtaposition of his crime and punishment related to his creative expression reinforces that old lesson, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Yuma Territorial Prison is a fascinating place. After walking through what’s left of the grounds (the rail road demolished 1/3 of the facility before it became a protected site in the name of “progress”) and standing inside a cell, I couldn’t fathom spending the night there let alone 20 years. I only shared with you a fraction of the history on display. I encourage you to add this place to your list of Arizona landmarks to visit.
220 Prison Hill Rd, Yuma, AZ 85364