The history of crime and punishment in America is a fascinating and complex narrative. As attitudes towards incarceration and criminality shifted over the years, many historic penitentiaries fell silent. These abandoned prisons are equal parts eerie, heart-breaking, and hauntingly beautiful.
1. Pennsylvania: Eastern State Penitentiary, Philidelphia
Eastern State Penitentiary operated from 1829 to 1971. When first constructed, the prison was the largest and most costly public structure ever built.
Many parts of the prison have been left exactly as they were in the past. The prison's old barber chair is still rooted to the floor of the barber shop.
The plush cell of Al Capone, American gangster and former inmate, is one of the most fascinating spots in this prison.
Today, Eastern State Penitentiary is a National Historic Landmark and open to the public.
2. Ohio: Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield
Also known as the Mansfield Reformatory, this prison opened in 1886 and closed in 1990.
The East Cell Block is still the largest free-standing steel cell block in the world.
This was the prison used to to film a large part of "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994).
Restoration of the prison is ongoing, though much of the structure is still in a state of decay.
3. West Virginia: West Virginia State Penitentiary, Moundsville
This Gothic-style prison operated from 1876 to 1995.
At least ninety-four men were executed at this prison. "Old Sparky," the prison's electric chair, was actually built by inmate Paul Glenn.
Today, the prison is open for tours. It also serves as a training facility for law enforcement officials.
4. Wyoming: Wyoming Frontier Prison, Rawlins
This prison began operating in 1880 and contained about five-hundred medium-security prisoners.
Inmate Henry Ruhl was executed at the Frontier Prison in 1945. To date, he is the only person to be put to death by the Federal Government in Wyoming.
The building is now a museum and offers guided tours. Visitors can also check out exhibits about the old prison.
5. California: Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, San Francisco
This place was built in 1912 as a military prison and operated as a federal prison between 1934 and 1963.
Due to its location in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was considered America's most isolated and secure prison.
However, 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts over the lifetime of the prison. The escape of inmates Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin in 1962 was the only successful attempt.
6. Idaho: Old Idaho State Penitentiary, Boise
This prison operated from 1872 to 1973, and is only 10 years younger than Idaho itself.
The prison was built to hold about 600 people, and saw over 13,000 inmates over its lifetime.
7. Tennessee: Tennessee State Prison, Nashville
Located near downtown Nashville, this old prison openin in 1898 and closed in 1992.
Much of the prison was actually built using inmate labor. Prisoners worked for up to 16 hours a day on little food.
Riots and uncontrollable prisoner violence contributed to the facility's closure.
8. Georgia: Atlanta Prison Farm, Atlanta
This prison held many low-level offenders who were serving time for ordinance or traffic offenses.
Prisoners spent their time farming, caring for livestock, making canned goods, and helping with the operation of the prison dairy.
The prison closed in 1995 after 50 years of operation. A fire destroyed much of the prison in 2009, as firefighters decided that extinguishing the blaze was not worth the risk in the case of this old structure.
9. New Jersey: Old Essex County Jail, Newark
This jail (also called the Newark Street Jail) was built in 1937 and closed in 1970.
It's a popular spot for urban exploration, though the interior is unstable and not guaranteed to be safe.
10. Ohio: Roseville State Prison, Roseville
Opened in 1927, the Roseville State Prison was originally meant to serve as a satellite prison to the Ohio State Penitentiary.
The prison closed in 1967 after two violent criminals escaped while working in the prison's brickmaking operation.