[Source: Yuma Sun.com, Jesse Torres, 1-24-2010] — It was with great sadness I read that the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park will be closing. A brief history, if I may. The Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma operated for 33 years. It was open from July 1876 to September 1909. During this time, 3,069 convicts were housed in this institution, of which 29 convicts happened to be female. A total of 111 prisoners met their death due to consumption, murder, being shot while trying to escape and accidents. The remains of 104 are buried in the prison cemetery.
The prison was quite modern for its time. It had electricity and phone service in 1885. Unfortunately, Yuma Prison closed due to overcrowding. It was moved to Florence, Arizona. But the prison was still used by the Yuma community. The superintendent’s residence was used as a county hospital and from 1910 to 1914 the prison hospital and shop buildings were used as Yuma High School. It was also a haven for people during the Great Depression. In the 1930’s Hollywood discovered the Yuma Territorial Prison and many movies were filmed there.
In 1941, Yuma Prison became a museum started by the city of Yuma. Clarisa Windsor became the first curator. In 1961 the Yuma Territorial Prison was handed over to Arizona State Parks and became our third state park. [Note: To read the full letter to the editor, click here.]