Friday, December 29, 2006

Yuma Territorial Prison

NOB HILL--We're back...but here's Yuma! The Yuma prison only served as the Territory prison from 1876 to 1909, but its fame lives on. What a hell hole. I hate the suffering. The building itself is pretty interesting however.

It is built of adobe blocks with thick walls and roofs of boards covered with a thick layer of dirt. Inside each cell, a steel cage was constructed. This was then plastered. Six prisoners were kept in each cell.

The adobes were made from a huge hill of caliche located on the property. This stuff is hard as a rock. In fact, the sides of the hill were excavated and rooms carved into the verticle hillsides. Some housed prisoners. Others were offices. At any rate, the same cages built of strap steel were constructed inside the rooms.

The hillside rooms are still standing intact over 200 years from their date of construction. They are in a natural state without stucco or any other form of protection. This says a lot both for the Arizona climate and for the durability of caliche.

The "dark cell" was located within the hillside units. This was solitary confinement. It was totally dark. The room was about 15 feet on a side with a covered stove pipe in the ceiling for air. Inside the room was a strap steel cage about 8 feet on a side and 5 feet tall. The prisoners were put in there naked except for their underwear. As if the prisoner wasn't uncomfortable enough, guards were said to throw snakes, scorpions, etc. down the stove pipe and into the dark cage.

Women were also housed at the prison, though not in big numbers. For one thing, there were so few women in the territory. However, women could be sent to the prison for everything from murder to adultery. I don't believe any men were encarcerated for adulterous behavior!

One woman was sentenced to the Yuma prison along with her sister for running off with a pair of vaudeville jugglers. What a place.

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