Four Points Bulletin

Travels north, east, south, and west of our Oceanside home base.

Yuma Territorial Prison State Park opened its steel bar doors in 1876, before the prison was completed. It was the inmates responsibility to construct the cells, as well as make their own boots and iconic striped clothing. The museum, in the center of the state park, is full of relics and fascinating accounts of guards, escapees, deaths, and convictions (of both men and women). One of my favorite inmate stories is the woman who gave birth while incarcerated, completing two more years of her sentence, with her baby boy by her side.

In 1909, the prison became overcrowded and inmates were moved to another location. A little over a decade later, a third of the prison was destroyed in order to complete the nearby railroad line. The railroad line, and the Great Depression, brought hobos and squatters that regularly stayed in the cells and stole what they could. The city of Yuma pushed to have to have the prison protected, which finally happened in the 1960s.

Despite the heat and lack of plumming, Yuma Territorial Prison doesn’t seem like it would have been a terrible place to do time. There was an infirmary and one of the only public libraries in the area. Inmates were taught to read and they often had their time significantly reduced.

It would have been great to learn even more, but with a toddler running around, we learned what we could. We will definitely need to stop again the next time we head through Yuma.

4 thoughts on “Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, AZ

  1. Kimmie says:

    Interesting place! All I could think of when I saw the pictures is short sleeves! We are in winter clothes over here! 😅

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    1. Yes. It is definitely still summer attire here! Especially in the desert. (But even at the beach.)

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  2. Denise says:

    We were there on Nov. 29, 2016 and loved it all (though we were in jeans and warm jackets). The history is intriguing. Though our views of ‘staying’ there differed. I had written, “But once they were locked up in the evenings, there were six men to a cell, and one bucket that was their toilet. In addition, they lived with large sewer roaches, lice, bedbugs and all manner of dangerous reptiles. Definitely a hellhole not a Country Club.” We really don’t have to travel far for incredibly history!!!

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    1. Well you have to weigh the pros and cons. The guards may drop snakes and scorpions into the dark cell, but on the plus there is an infirmary. There are lice, but library books…. Bed bugs, but reduced sentences… I vote for leaving early with an education, and a baby! :/

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