Party at the Penitentiary


Zelda Fishman, Reporter

The Idaho State Penitentiary is an iconic and historic building in the City of Boise, but do people really understand the historical significance behind this monument? 

The Penitentiary was in service between 1864-1947. Throughout that time over 7,000 inmates were incarcerated. There were a total of 500 escape attempts, 90 of which successful. Though, in total, through the 83 years of operation there are only 129 reported deaths to have occured on prison grounds as well as 10 executions. The prison’s closure in 1947 was the result of prisoners rioting over living conditions.

In spite of all this brutal history, it continues to be used for parties. These parties include consuming alcohol and promoting tall tales of ghosts that haunt the prison to this day. This imposes the ethical question, is it morally correct to do this?

Knowing all the history of death, torture, and mistreatment of prisoners at the Penitentary while it was in operation, events that don’t focus on the history of the monument could be seen as unethical. The disregard for the inmates  and their families, some of which still live in Boise, may be seen as disrespectful by them. The tales of ghosts aren’t constructive in informing people of what happened. 

This situation imposes the question of whether the penitentiary is a valuable monument at its size and use. Although the penitentiary is a historical monument, it symbolizes cruelty and death coming from all sides. There are better ways to honor the memory of those who died there than to hold ghost tours claiming that prisoners haunt the building. 

The most important portion of this argument is that the people who were tortured and died at the penitentiary stories are heard and as of right now, that’s not the case. There are an abundant amount of different stories and ways to display them in an effective way.