top of page

The Wyoming Frontier Prison

The Wyoming State Penitentiary {The Old Pen}

The Wyoming State Penitentiary opened its doors in 1901, consisting of 104 cells. The A block was the first to be built, and it was also the largest of them all. It had no electricity, running water, or adequate heating. Due to overcrowded conditions, cell block B was built in 1950, which included solitary confinement cells. It also had a much better heating system and hot water, which wasn't added to cell block A until 1978. Cells were also bigger, so the inmates misbehaved just to get transferred to the B block, rather than having to be in the coldest cell block A. Cell block C, which was the maximum security addition, was built in 1966. The Wyoming State Prison was a working prison. From 1901 through 1917, it had a broom factory and later, a shirt factory. In 1935, it began operating as a woolen mill producing quality blankets for the military. In 1949, they started making license plates. The kitchen was also built in 1950, so the inmates liked working there during the cold winters, as well as in the laundry area. In 1981, the prison doors closed and the inmates were moved to a different location. In the 80 years time it operated as a prison, it housed a little over 13,500 inmates, of which 11 were women. In 1909, all the women were shipped to Colorado. In this time, there were over 200 deaths, but only 14 of them were excecutions. Some died due to poor conditions or treatment, violence between the inmates, or suicides. Today you can take a guided one hour tour through the prison, which includes the three cell blocks, the cafeteria, the grounds, and the Death House. There is also the Wyoming Peace Officers' Museum, a new exhibit on the current Wyoming State Penitentiary, and their own prison museum. The Old Pen Gift Shop is well worth a visit. They use good humor on some of the t-shirts, and they stamp their books saying, "stolen from the Wyoming Frontier Prison" . There is a book for sale called, "The Sweet Smell of Sagebrush" A Prisoner's Diary 1903-1912, which takes you inside the life of a prisoner at The Old Pen written by an inmate serving time there. You can follow a "City of Rawlins" walking path that takes you up to the old prison cemetery, which unfortunately is fenced with no access. For those who are interested in paranormal, the prison is said to be haunted. The tour guides have heard footsteps, voices, knocking sounds, and seen shadows going from the A block to the C block. The shower area is said to be the most haunted area. People have been touched there. It is also next to where a guard was brutally murdered. The feeling in the prison is depressing and sad naturally, but those of you who are sensitive will feel it even more. Nevertheless, the tour is very interesting, and as they say at The Wyoming Frontier Prison, "Come hang with us."

To see more photos from this location, click on the link below:

bottom of page