Now abandoned and in disrepair, this former state prison dates back to the early 20th century. Thousands of male inmates passed through these steel-reinforced concrete walls. The prison, comprised of several floors, is mostly open-air dormitories with a row of solitary cells in the basement. With no central air-conditioning or heat, the sweltering summer months and frigid winters made life inside miserable for both the inmates and the guards.
Most of the prisoners held here were convicted of minor felonies like arson, theft, or embezzlement. Years ago, inmates were allowed to work labor jobs for the Department of Transportation. This backbreaking work paid as much as 15 cents per day, paid out to the inmate upon his release. Many of the inmates chose to work these jobs to learn a skill or trade for when they reenter the workforce. From its inception until the 1950s, inmates wore traditional striped jumpsuits. Daily life inside the prison was not only uncomfortable but also extremely dangerous. The dormitory showers were a notorious location for beatings and assaults.
In the 1980s, a series of lawsuits ushered in a new era of policing and prison reform. Lawsuits filed by inmates complained about the living conditions in the state prisons. These lawsuits were the precursor for the closing of many of the dated facilities across the South. Although the prison population was on the rise, lawmakers looked at ways they could reduce the population through drug and alcohol programs as well as youthful offender programs like boot camp or work release. Today, the abandoned state prison serves as a reminder of its infamous past. Hazardous materials like asbestos and lead paint make demolition too costly. The property remains off-limits and under the ownership of the Department of Corrections.
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