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Joliet Prison

This is an article about a men's prison in Illinois in the United States. For the women's prison in Quebec, Canada, see Joliette Institute.

Joliet Correctional Center (colloquially known as Joliet Prison) was a prison in Joliet, Illinois, United States from 1858 to 2002. It is featured in the motion picture The Blues Brothers as the prison from which Jake Blues is released at the beginning of the movie. It is also the location for the first season of Fox Network's Prison Break television show and the movie Let's Go to Prison.

History

Often confused with Stateville Correctional Center, which is located in nearby Crest Hill, Illinois, Joliet Correctional Center is in fact a completely separate prison. Joliet prison was built with convict labor at a total cost of $75,000 and had space for 761 inmates. The prison was built where it was because the limestone used to make it was mined directly from the site. Opened in 1858, just outside of Joliet city limits, it replaced the Alton Prison, which opened 1833 and closed 1860. The limestone buildings were designed by William W. Boyington. He also designed the Chicago Water Tower, the Hegeler Carus Mansion, and the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield. At the time of construction, it was the largest prison in the country and its design became a model for United States prisons.

The first 33 inmates arrived in May 1858. Both criminal prisoners and prisoners of war were kept there during the Civil War. The first corrections officer to be killed there was Joseph Clark in 1865. By 1872 the population had reached 1,239, a record number for a single prison. From the 1870s the prison had work contracts with local businesses.

The prison was slow to modernize. There was no running water or toilets in the cells in 1910. The construction of the nearby Stateville Correctional Center begun in 1917 and opened in March 1925 was meant to lead to the swift closure of Joliet. This did not happen, and both prisons operated simultaneously for the rest of the 20th Century.

A women's prison was added across the road from the main structures in 1896 but closed in 1932 when the female prison in Dwight, Illinois was opened. It then became an annex for the male prison and later the male reception unit for northern Illinois.

In 1924, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were given life sentences to be served at Joliet. Their case was known as "the crime of the century" at the time after kidnapping and murdering Robert Franks.

From at least the early 1960s, the prison included a reception and classification center for northern Illinois, holding new prisoners for less than a month before their final assignments and processing over 20,000 a year. In addition to the prisoners temporarily held in the R&C unit, Joliet maintained a large population of permanent inmates.

The number of inmates peaked at 1,300 in 1990 and was still 1,156 in 2000, although capacity had been raised to 1,300 over 1999–2000, from 1,180 previously. In 2000 there were 541 staff.

Execution Site

For years Joliet was a main site of executions in Illinois. One of three state's electric chairs - mostly used - was located here. The first electrocution in Illinois was performed in Joliet.

Closure

Joliet Correctional Center closed as a holding prison in February 2002. Budget cuts and the obsolete and dangerous nature of the buildings were the cited reasons. All inmates and most staff were transferred to new buildings built at Stateville Correctional Center, the maximum security prison in Crest Hill. Joliet continued as an intake center until March 2004.

Media

Poetry

Joliet is referenced in the "Spoon River Anthology" written by Edgar Lee Masters. In the poem "Silas Dement" it reads:
When I came back from Joliet
There was a new court house with a dome.
For I was punished like all who destroy
The past for the sake of the future.

Music

"Percy's Song", from Bob Dylan's album The Times They Are a-Changin', which has been covered by artists such as Fairport Convention and Arlo Guthrie, tells the story of someone trying to get a friend's ninety-nine year sentence in Joliet Prison repealed. The second verse runs:

Tell me the trouble,
Tell once to my ear,
Turn, turn, turn again.
Joliet prison
And ninety-nine years,
Turn, turn to the rain
And the wind.

The humorous Steve Goodman song "Lincoln Park Pirates" centers on an infamous Chicago firm called Lincoln Park Towing. One of its lines is:

Our drivers are friendly and courteous
Good manners you always will get
For all are recent graduates
Of the "charm school" at Joliet

Television/Film

Joliet Prison was featured in the 1980 John Landis film The Blues Brothers both as a filming location and as the namesake for "Joliet" Jake Blues (John Belushi).

Some characters from Saw II were ex-Joliet Prison inmates.

Since its closure, Joliet Prison has been used much more as a set for various film and television projects.

See also

References

External links

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