Inside the Big House: The Old Joliet Prison (1858-2002)
Today I visited the Old Joliet Prison, a now-abandoned and famous prison off Illinois Route 171 in Joliet, IL.
|The East entrance to the prison, the same one where Joliet Jake left prison in The Blues Brothers|
|The Prison as shown on the USGS 1923 topo map. Note the existence of railroad tracks which went through the center of the facility.|
|A sign on the inside of the prison showing the quarrying and railroad activity going on.|
|Entrance to what was the Warden's quarters, located on the second floor. Offices were on the first floor in this building.|
|It's amazing what just 15 years of neglect looks like. Here is a stairwell in the hospital building.|
|Inside the East gate. Many buildings were fenced off, either from Arson or neglect, they were unsafe.|
|Some buildings look more like warzones.|
|A guard tower.|
|Part of what was guard offices.|
|Lots of graffiti. Joliet Historical Society officials are trying to determine how much, if any, of the vandalism should be preserved in the history of this place.|
|During the tour, most buildings were inaccessible, for obvious reasons. Lots of metal and debris everywhere.|
|The Central guard tower. It was only accessible via a tunnel system, which often flooded.|
The first building we got to see the inside of was the segregation area, or the prison within the prison. Interestingly, this was quite the reprieve from the July sun, it was quite cool inside! I doubt the prisoners interned there had the same positive thoughts about it, however.
|Historical image of the inside. Image: Joliet Area Historical Museum.|
|Ironically, the toilets were some of the cleanest parts of the interior.|
|These cells made me the slightest bit claustrophobic.|
|The tour guide told a story of how two girls on an earlier tour got themselves locked within here, requiring the Fire Department to come rescue them. Apparently, very few keys exist.|
|This looks like something out of Silent Hill. It should be noted that my flash is on here, the real cell is much darker.|
|This would make one hell of a haunted house.|
|Different wardens employed "punishment" or "reform" tactics to the prisoners. This message was painted during one of the reformists' tenures.|
|Looking up to the second floor. I wonder how many prisoners dreamed of escaping through here.|
The next place we visited was easily the scariest, the hospital building. Much of the equipment, including an X-Ray machine and the psych ward, was still on site.
|Patient treatment center.|
|What appeared to be a doctors office.|
|Another image with my flash off. It was really dark in here.|
|I have no idea what this is supposed to be.|
|X Ray machine. Looks like a zombie or nurse could pop out of the shadows at any minute!|
|You can tell this was one of the more modern buildings on the campus, at least in the interior.|
|This was an elevator door. With no power in the building, it would only work if supernatural forces acted upon it. I'll take the stairs.|
The rest of the tour consisted of more of the prison's history, including some of the most famous inmates, and a walkthrough of the rest of the buildings on the campus.
|Large smokestack in the center of the facility. The grounds were pretty large. It hardly felt like a prison.|
|This was the exercise facility for those in solitary confinement. Obviously, it was much smaller.|
|Many scenes in Prison Break were filmed in this gate.|
|The education center. In the earliest days, prisoners would become literate here. Later, prisoners could earn their G.E.D and, for a short time, even Bachelor's Degrees through Lewis University.|
|The chapel. Any religion could be practiced here except Voodoo. Originally supposed to be part of the tour, the roof caved in during a storm last fall.|
|I was able to peek inside. I was amazed by the amount of light that comes in through here.|
|More exercise courts.|
|Very few stairwells were accessible.|
|Looking east toward the exit. Railroad lines used to run inside here, but I wonder if they just transported materials, or if prisoners came via railroad as well.|
|The west, and more commonly used, exit.|
|Another condemned building. I wonder how much loot is in here.|
|This building looked pretty stable, but other than a peek inside, there wasn't much to see.|
|View of the outside of the prison.|
If you'd rather watch my photos, I made a video collage below.
Thanks as always for reading!