The Joliet Correctional Center—aka “Joliet Prison”—opened in 1858 and has been in operation for more than a century and a half. Located in Joliet, Illinois, the facility was originally known as the Illinois State Penitentiary.
It is often confused with the nearby Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, which operated alongside the Joliet Prison for decades. Although the original intent was to close Joliet when Stateville opened in 1925.
Over the years, Juliet has housed some notorious criminals. But it’s famous because it’s often featured in popular culture. Today’s blog post is about Joliet Prison. Read on because I’m going to answer the question – can you visit Joliet Prison?
In today’s blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- History of Joliet Prison
- Juliet’s Prison in Pop Culture
- Can you visit Joliet Prison?
History of Joliet Prison
The Joliet Correctional Center opened in 1858—just six years after the city of Joliet was founded. It was built by prison labor leased to contractor Lorenzo P. Sanger and Warden Samuel K. Casey by the state of Illinois.
Since its opening, the prison has been synonymous with the town, and its Gothic architecture has become iconic. It was designed by WW Boyington, one of Chicago’s first architects, who also designed the Chicago Water Tower. The logo he designed was made using limestone quarried on site.
Joliet Prison replaced the first state prison in Alton, Illinois, built in 1831 on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. It was a poor, privately run prison that caught the attention of noted reformer Dorothea Dix. Joliet’s project began after she personally petitioned the state legislature to build a new prison.
The first convoy of 53 prisoners arrived in Joliette on May 22, 1858. They set about building larger prisons around themselves. Joliet’s original architectural plans included a one hundred cell, “women’s cell”, within the men’s prison. From 1859 to 1870, female prisoners were housed adjacent to male cells.
The women were eventually moved to the fourth floor of the Central Administration Building. In 1896, a hundred cells, the “Joliet Women’s Prison,” was built across the street as a mini-replica of the men’s prison, with female prisoners moved entirely out of Joliet.
In 1933, female inmates were transferred from Joliette Women’s Prison to Oakdale Women’s Correctional Institution (later Dwight Correctional Centre), and the Women’s Prison was converted to a facility for male prisoners.
By 1878, the population of Joliette Prison had grown to nearly 2,000. Reports of Joliet’s unsanitary and dangerous conditions began to emerge in the early 1900s, as women moved around and then eventually left.
Calls to close the “old jail” soon began, leading to the construction of Stateville Jail on Crest Hill (with the intention to close Joliet Jail). However, Joliet Prison operated until 2002. Governor George Ryan closed the facility nearly 150 years after it opened because of budgetary concerns.
Notable inmates at Joliet Prison include Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, as well as Joseph Gillis, aka Babyface Nelson.
Juliet’s Prison in Pop Culture
Joliet Prison is known for its many pop culture appearances. Most notably, the prison appears at the beginning of the 1980 film, blues brothers, when “Joliet Jake” Bruce is released from the facility. It was also used for exterior shots, and featured in James Cagney’s “State Penitentiary” in Illinois, White hot.
for the first season on fox prison Break, the Joliet Prison was used as a filming location for the show and became known as Fox River State Penitentiary. Joliet Prison was also the filming location of the movie, derailed, let’s go to jail and TV shows, empire.
Can you visit Joliet Prison?
After the prison closed in 2002, it was severely damaged by bad weather and rampant vandalism. Including several acts of arson. The city of Joliet petitioned the state of Illinois to take over the property in 2017. The city has since partnered with the Joliet Regional History Museum to turn the old prison into a tourist attraction. So yes, you can visit Joliet Prison!
From 2022, the Old Joliette Prison is regularly visited. You can choose a self-guided tour lasting about 90 minutes for $20 per adult and $10 per child. Guided historical tours of the facility, led by a certified museum guide, cost $30 per person.
Guard tours are led by former prison employees and can have up to eight participants. These tours are available to guests 16 years and older and cost USD 40 per person.
The Haunted History Tour of the Old Joliette Prison includes the true stories of some of the prison’s most notorious residents. A haunted history tour costs $30 per person, but there are no ghost hunting or any paranormal activities.
Finally, the Old Juliette Prison Photography Tour is for amateur and professional photographers who can take a tripod and wander around the prison. Photography tours of the facility cost $50 per person.
In the gift shop you’ll find pieces of Joliet history and Route 66 memorabilia.There are many souvenirs to choose from, such as exclusive blues brothers T-shirts, prison knit caps, hoodies, hats and books on the coffee table.
The tour schedule is updated regularly Old Joliette Prison Website. There are updated information on special events.For example, in 2021, they showed blue brother In the courtyard of the old Joliette prison.
If you would like more information on tours of the Old Joliette Jail, you can visit the Joliette Regional History Museum website or call 815-723-5201.
Have you ever been to the old Joliette prison? If so, let us know your experience in the comments below.