The to provide an economic boost to Yuma,

The Yuma Territorial Prison was the first big prison in Arizona back in the 1800’s.  Before then, persons who committed crimes in the territory would be sent to county jails from which they could escape easily.  The prison lasted from 1876 until 1909 and it housed 3069 prisoners during the 33 years that it was open.  The prisoner’s crimes ranged from embezzlement to theft and murder, and their backgrounds were highly diverse for the region.  The prison was then abandoned from 1909 until 1940, where the museum that we see today was first built.  This year, the Yuma Union High School District is making their annual research paper subject about the Yuma Territorial Prison.  That begs the question, is the Yuma Territorial Prison an important aspect of the community of Yuma; so much so that it is worthy of being a subject for a research paper?  Well since its inception, the Yuma Territorial Prison has had a significant impact in Yuma’s history because it was built with the intent to provide an economic boost to Yuma, it played many roles for the community of Yuma, it was considered state of the art for its time, and because of the prison’s involvement in the spread of numerous diseases while it was open.During the 1800’s, the Southwest territories had no prison to put all of their prisoners in.  There were only jails in each town’s sheriff offices.  Because of this, there were frequent escapes and legislatures called for the construction of a prison.  The reason that the Territorial Prison was built in Yuma was to provide the young town with an economic boost.  According to Gary Stigall during the guided tour of the prison, state legislator Jose Redondo, changed the location of the prison from Phoenix to Yuma during lunch and no one noticed.  When questioned, Redondo stated that he did so in order to provide Yuma with an economic boost and publicity.  The effect the prison had on Yuma was that it provided the town with other amenities that it didn’t have at the time such as a library, a band, and electricity after 9 PM.  In Yuma Territorial Prison 1875 – 1909, Bob Foster states, “It would be built next to the Colorado River, upon a hill donated to the Territory by the village of Yuma, where work on the prison was soon underway”(Foster, 2010).  This is important to the prison and to Yuma because it meant that prisoners wouldn’t so easily escape from the prison because they’d be surrounded by harsh desert.  Also, the construction of the prison close to the river would make the disposal of sewage easier for the prison staff.  In addition, its connection to the rivers allows for easier transport of supplies to and from the prison meaning more traffic to Yuma.  This new traffic would mean more business for the town as ships had to stop to resupply or sell goods to the local townspeople and those at the prison.To add to this, the Yuma Territorial Prison wasn’t just known for being a prison, but as a community building throughout the years.  The Yuma Territorial Prison had a band and a library, in which people could rent books out, while it was still open, as seen in the Arizona State Parks video of the prison.  After the building was abandoned in 1909, Yuma High School burnt down.  As a result, the prison was used as a high school a year after it was abandoned until the new building was built in 1914.  The effects of this can still be seen today because the Yuma High School team received the name of The Criminals during the time that the prison was used as the main school building.  During that year, the prison served as a county hospital helping those in need of care.  In 1916, a flood struck Yuma destroying buildings from the town, and as a result, the prison was used as materials to rebuild the town.  During the great depression, the old prison was also used as a refuge of sorts for those living in poverty.  The effects of that can still be seen today, as the people of that era have left names on the walls of cells.  Late into WWII, the prison was used as a guard tower to detect any oncoming attacks from Mexico, which there luckily wasn’t.  In 1941, the prison began to be used as a museum, which it still is to this day.  Its status as a museum has attracted tourists to Yuma and as a result, has made the town richer.For its time, the Yuma Territorial Prison was quite modern and state of the art.  For starters, the prison featured electricity and fans which helped to keep the prisoners cool.  This had the bonus effect of allowing the people of Yuma to have electricity after 9 PM.  Not only that, but the prison featured a hospital during its operation, and it helped plenty of prisoners.  As seen in the Arizona State Park’s video on the Yuma Territorial Prison, “These guys even had dental help” (Arizona State Parks, 2009).  In terms of punishments, the Yuma Territorial Prison wasn’t very progressive.  The 2 major punishments given to prisoners were the ball and chain, and some time (usually a day or more) in the dark cell.  According to the Center for Prison Reforms “Before the 1950s, prison conditions were grim. Inmates were regularly caged and chained, often in places like cellars and closets” (Center for Prison Reform, 2018).  This was the same in the Yuma Territorial Prison.  However, the prisoners were allowed to be taught certain subjects during their time at the prison.  This is enforced by the fact that Kimberly Kregger of the Bureau of Reclamation states, “The prisoners were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, Spanish language, German language, and music” (Arizona State Parks, 2009).  This and the fact that the prisoners formed a band set to lighten up the mood at the territorial prison when compared to other prisons.  Conditions at the prison were still horrible, however, as inmates have repeatedly have called the prison a hell hole.  In short, the prison while still being a terrible place to be placed in, was state of the art and offered many amenities that even the townspeople didn’t have.The Yuma Territorial Prison did have its faults to the community of Yuma however.  During the time that the prison was open, the staff threw away their hundreds of gallons of dirty water onto the Colorado River.  This wouldn’t matter much if the prison was miles away from Yuma, and if the facility was clean.  Unfortunately, the prison “is less than a mile upstream from the town of Yuma” (Murphy, 1999).  As such, the town of Yuma suffered from the contaminated water, as “…outbreaks of Typhus, smallpox, and scarlet fever frequently occurred…” (Murphy, 1999) because of the untreated water.  To add to the contaminated water, prisoners only bathed once a week, meaning that they were extra dirty once bath time came around.  In summary, the prison’s bad treatment of sewage and dirty nature caused many diseases to spread to the local town of Yuma.In spite of this, others will argue that the Yuma Territorial Prison is irrelevant to Yuma’s history and isn’t important nowadays.  However, this is untrue because, in 2010, state budget cuts threatened to close the museum of today.  Fortunately, the Yuma community came together and raised money for the museum.  This proves that the museum is an important aspect of Yuma to the community living in the town.In summary, the Yuma Territorial Prison is an important aspect of Yuma’s history that remains until today.  The prison’s main purpose for being in Yuma was to provide economic benefits to the town itself and was state of the art for its time.  The prison also played the roles of both a prison, a school, a guard tower, a place to get materials, a movie filming spot, and finally the museum of today.  Plus, the prison spread diseases such as tuberculosis to Yuma’s residents while it was still open.  In short, the Yuma Territorial Prison is a worthy subject for the Yuma Union High School district to use as a base the annual research papers.During the writing of this research paper, a variety of sources were used.  These ranged from website articles, books, images, timelines, etc.  The information contained in these sources varied from a history of the prison, notable stories about inmates, to images of said inmates, and even a tour of the real prison itself.  Although, something that would strengthen this paper, even more, would be more accurate information of how other prisons operated during the time that the Yuma Territorial Prison was in operation.