Near Penrose in Fremont County, Colorado — The American Mountains (Southwest)
When Colorado Territorial Prison opened in June 1871 just west of Cañon City, it drew a mixed reception from law-abiding locals — some daunted by the possibility of felons on the loose, others eager for the jobs and services that came with the facility. Over time the economic benefits outweighed the hazards of the occasional jailbreak, and by the early twentieth century the prison had emerged as one of Fremont County's key assets. Indeed, local leaders actively courted new institutions housing ever-larger numbers of convicts. Though this proliferation of cells made some residents jittery, no one minded the attendant profits. The county brought in four new federal penitentiaries in 1994, including an ultra-high-security building called SuperMax for the nation's most dangerous criminals. These additions raised Fremont County’s total of state and federal prisons to thirteen.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, July 7, 2020
1. Corrections Capital Marker
Fremont County hardly suffered from the convicts’ presence; on the contrary, local communities made good use of the involuntary tenants. In 1905 Cañon City officials employed convict work crews to build scenic Skyline Drive, making an
otherwise expensive construction job downright affordable (it cost taxpayers just $1,200). Based on that success, area leaders began using prison laborers for various infrastructure projects, most notably U.S. Highway 50. In addition to giving inmates a breath of fresh air, these work programs yielded tangible public benefits and made the prisons seem less threatening. By the early twenty-first century, Fremont County had come to accept its unusual industry, even to take pride in it. Today it bills itself as the “Corrections Capital of the World.”
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, July 7, 2020
2. Corrections Capital Marker
Subject marker is on the right.
Erected by Colorado Department of Transportation; Colorado Historical Society.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Law Enforcement • Roads & Vehicles.
Location. Marker has been reported damaged. 38° 26.193′ N, 105° 6.576′ W. Marker is near Penrose, Colorado, in Fremont County. Marker is on U.S. 50 0.2 miles east of Phantom Canyon Road (County Road 67), on the right when traveling west. Marker is on a pullout across from Fremont County Airport. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Penrose CO 81240, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this location, measured as the crow flies. Arkansas River Valley (here, next to this marker); Arkansas Valley Country (here, next to this marker); The Royal Gorge
(here, next to this marker); Lt. Zebulon Pike's Southwestern Expedition (approx. 3.1 miles away); Cramer School (approx. 3.1 miles away); James A. McCandless House (approx. 3.2 miles away); Early Agriculture & Ranching (approx. 3.2 miles away); Florence's Beginnings (approx. 3.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Penrose.
Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library, 1900
3. Convicts in line
"Convicts at the State Penitentiary in Canon City, Colorado, wear uniforms marked with wide, horizontal stripes. They stand in a line, each with his hands on the shoulders of the man in front of him. A uniformed guard in a double breasted jacket and conductor's hat looks on."
More about this marker. Rattlesnake activity in the area.
Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library, circa 1920s
4. Old Gray Mare
"A Colorado State Penitentiary guard in uniform looks on as a man bends over the "Old Gray Mare," a device used in Canon City, Fremont County, Colorado, at the prison, for disciplinary beatings...."
Photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library, October 3, 1929
5. Mutiny at Colo. State Penitentiary Oct. 3 1929
"Smoke billows from the State Penitentiary in Canon City, Colorado, during a riot. Twelve inmates, led by Danny Daniels, took control of the prison, killed seven guards (four in a firing squad) and released the other prisoners. People are in the yards. The stone west gate and guard tower are in the foreground, and the town is in the background."
6. State Penitentiary at Canon City, Colorado
And the back of the postcard probably does not read, "Having a wonderful time, wish you were here...."
Credits. This page was last revised on July 18, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 17, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 62 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 17, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on July 18, 2020. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.