Here’s to Part 4.5!!! My most favorite place we toured while in Philly was the Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP). It was ah-mazing! My major used to be Criminal Justice and I learned about this prison during the semesters I studied CrimJ.
A little history on the ESP: it was founded by the Quakers who were appalled by the conditions of the prisons during the 1800s. So a group of Quakers, including Benjamin Franklin, banded together and formed The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons and commissioned the ESP to be built. The purpose of the prison was to isolate the prisoners in solitary confinement because the belief was if a prisoner was isolated, there would be no bad outside influences to corrupt them. ESP was built like a fortress; it was built on a hill overlooking Philadelphia so the citizens could look up, see the prison, and be physically reminded when tempted to commit crimes that they would end up there. The stone walls rise high above the ground with no chance of escape with the guard towers are even taller than the walls.
In the cells there was one bed, one toilet, a sky light, and a tiny, walled private courtyard. The skylight was called the Eye of God. The Quakers believed the prisoners would look up to see the sliver of light and think God was looking down on them (it was supposed to inspire repentance). During the early years of the prison, there was a prisoner who was sentenced to ESP for two years for the crime of stealing his neighbor’s horse. Since ESP was specifically built to be a solitary confinement prison, the prisoner’s days consisted of 22 hours of solitary confinement, 1 hour of visual contact with the prison guards (they were not allowed to speak to the guards), and 1 hour of sunshine in the private courtyard. If a prisoner spoke, another year was added onto their sentences.
It was one of the first prisons to have multiple levels and it was designed like a wheel with spokes. The whole purpose of the design was so a guard could stand in the center of the “wheel”, do a 360, and see down every single cell block.
As the years passed, the people realized that solitary confinement and the “no talking” rule wasn’t working. So they changed it to where you could talk but it was still one prisoner per cell.
One cell that was super cool in particular housed Al Capone for one year. He was sentenced to ESP after being busted for carrying a concealed, unlicensed .38 caliber revolver.
Below are some more pictures that I took at ESP. I loved how dark and solemn the atmosphere felt.
These were some photos along the wall of actual pictures of the prisoners. We were given a headset when we entered the prison and the last picture on the bottom right was of all the voices on the headset. Many of them were of prisoners and guards who were sentenced/worked there over the years ESP was operational.
They still hold reunions for the prisoners each year. 🙂
These mirrors swing back and forth, able to adjust as the guards needed. They allowed guards to be able to stand at any vantage point and see down the hallway.
All in all, the Eastern State Penitentiary was my all-time favorite place we visited in Philadelphia. I could have easily spent all day exploring all the corridors we didn’t go down. If you ever have a free afternoon in Philly, definitely go here!
After leaving there, we caught the Bus and hopped off at the Vietnam Veterans memorial. Joshua really wanted to pay tribute to his fellow veteran.
We ended the day by walking from the Vietnam Memorial to Sonny’s (another great Philly cheesesteak place). We passed by where William Penn’s house used to sit. While the house is no longer standing, the land is now converted into what’s called Welcome Park.
That ended our touring of Philadelphia. I cannot say how much I love that city. ❤