There are 10 abandoned prisons hidden around the United States, and one of them might be in your backyard

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The history of crime and punishment in the United States is a fascinating and complicated affair. Many medieval penitentiaries became quiet as views regarding imprisonment and crime altered over time. These abandoned jails are hauntingly beautiful, tragic, and disturbing.

#1  Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Flickr/Brook Ward

From 1829 until 1971, Eastern State Penitentiary was in operation. When it was initially erected, the jail was the biggest and most expensive public facility ever built.

Flickr/Ram Joshi

Many areas of the penitentiary have been preserved precisely as they were. The antique barber chair from the jail is still rooted to the floor of the barber business.

Flickr/Brook Ward

One of the most remarkable places in this jail is the luxury cell of Al Capone, an American criminal, and a former convict.

Flickr/Bill Vriesema

Eastern State Penitentiary is a National Historic Landmark that is available to the public today.

#2  Ohio: Mansfield State Reformatory

Flickr/Ian McKellar

This jail, also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, opened in 1886 and closed in 1990.

Flickr/Doug Butchy

The East Cell Block remains the world’s biggest free-standing steel cell block.


This was the jail where a big portion of “The Shawshank Redemption” was filmed (1994).

Flickr/Doug Butchy

The jail is being restored, while most of the building is still in disrepair.

#3  Moundsville, West Virginia: West Virginia State Penitentiary

Flickr/Taber Andrew Bain

From 1876 through 1995, this Gothic-style jail was in operation.

Flickr/Doug Focht

At least, 94 persons were executed at this jail. Inmate Paul Glenn actually constructed “Old Sparky,”the Prison’s electric chair.

Flickr/Doug Focht

The penitentiary is now available for tours. It also acts as a training center for police enforcement personnel.

#4  Rawlins, Wyoming: Wyoming Frontier Prison

Flickr/Onasill ~ Bill Badzo Off/ON ~ Broken Ankle ~OUCH

This jail opened in 1880 and housed around 500 medium-security offenders.

Flickr/Vicki Watkins

In 1945, inmate Henry Ruhl was executed at the Frontier Prison. To date, he is the only person in Wyoming who has been executed by the federal government.

Flickr/Vicki Watkins

The structure is now a museum with guided tours. Exhibits about the former prison are also available to visitors.

#5  Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco, California


This facility was constructed as a military jail in 1912 and served as a federal prison from 1934 until1963.

Flickr/Alex Light

Alcatraz was considered America’s most isolated and secure jail due to its position in San Francisco Bay.


However, 36 inmates attempted 14 escapes over the prison’s lifespan. The sole successful effort was by convicts Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin in 1962.

#6  Idaho: Boise’s Old Idaho State Penitentiary

Flickr/Thomas Hawk

This penitentiary, which functioned from 1872 until 1973, is barely ten years older than Idaho itself.

Flickr/Thomas Hawk

The jail was designed to accommodate 600 people and has seen over 13,000 convicts during its lifespan.

#7  Tennessee State Prison, Nashville, Tennessee

Flickr/Thomas Hawk

This ancient jail, located in downtown Nashville, opened in 1898 and closed in 1992.

Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Inmate labor was used to construct most of the facility. Prisoners were forced to labor up to 16 hours a day on little nourishment.

Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Riots and unrestrained prisoner violence aided in the closing of the institution.

#8  Atlanta Prison Farm, Atlanta, Georgia

Flickr/eric shoemaker

This jail housed a large number of low-level criminals who were doing time for ordinance or traffic violations.

Flickr/Mike Boening Photography

Prisoners spent their time farming, caring for animals, creating canned foods, and assisting with the prison dairy’s operation.

Flickr/Zlatko Unger

After 50 years of existence, the jail was closed in 1995. In 2009, a fire destroyed part of the jail after firemen judged that putting out the fire was not worth the danger in the case of this elderly institution.

#9  Newark, New Jersey: Old Essex County Jail

Flickr/Laser Burners

This facility (also known as the Newark Street Jail) opened in 1937 and closed in 1970.

Flickr/Laser Burners

The inside is unstable and not guaranteed to be secure, making it a popular site for urban exploration.

#10  Roseville State Prison, Roseville, Ohio

The Roseville State Prison, which was opened in 1927, was initially intended to serve as a satellite prison for the Ohio State Penitentiary.

Flickr/Justin Masterson

After two dangerous offenders escaped while working in the prison’s brickmaking activity, the jail was shuttered in 1967.

Flickr/Justin Masterson

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