Wyoming Frontier Prison, Rawlins
Time of Operation: 1880 to 1981
The eighty-year history of Wyoming’s first state penitentiary, aka the Wyoming Frontier Prison, is as colorful and intricate as the plot of a classic western movie. The prison was outfitted with several means of punishing inmates throughout its operation, including solitary confinement, a dungeon, and a “punishment pole,” to which men were handcuffed and whipped with rubber hoses.
The prison also housed a gas chamber when it was chosen to replace hanging as Wyoming’s method of execution in 1936. This site is a relic of the old West’s grizzly past, but not every phase of prison life was off-putting.
Over its 80-year operation, the prison produced goods to meet the needs of four major industries. It operated as a shirt factory, a woolen mill, and in 1949 the jail changed production one last time, producing license plates until its closing in 1981. The building is now a museum and has exhibits and guided tours of the old prison.