150 Years of Corrections In Idaho

Prison History Milestones

The Department of Correction marks 150 years of corrections in Idaho in 2014. To commemorate the milestone, the Department created a 150 year anniversary seal and a commemorative challenge coin. Each location will observe the anniversary with a community or staff event between April 2014 and May 2015.

The roots of corrections are in Idaho City and Lewiston. The territorial legislature designated the two cities jails as territorial prisons in 1864. During the eight years the jails served the territory, they housed approximately 100 inmates. The majority of inmates were in Idaho City. Much of the original Idaho City territorial prison fell into Elk Creek when gold diggers undermined the area in the early 1900s. The remaining buildings were moved into Idaho City where they remain today.

An Idaho Historical Society document from 1964 provides an interesting glimpse into make-shift prisons that served the territory. Another treasure trove of information is a recently developed catalogue of Idaho Inmates.

The federal government began work on a more permanent structure in 1870 using inmate labor to help build a sandstone prison. The territorial prison opened in 1872. When Idaho became a state in 1890, the state took over and renamed the facility the Idaho State Penitentiary. The prison housed inmates for 101 years before it was closed in December 1973 after inmates rioted over living conditions. The sandstone structure is now a museum.

The oldest prison still in service is the Idaho State Correctional Institution. It opened in 1972 and replaced the territorial prison. ISCI still houses medium custody male inmates. A radar station and mental health hospital were converted to house inmates in the 70s and 80s. Additional facilities were added over the years. Today, ten prisons and four work centers house Idaho’s inmate population. The history of each prison will be added to the website during the 150 year celebration of corrections in Idaho.

In addition to prisons, the Department supervises offenders living in Idaho communities and provides education, treatment and reentry services to help reduce recidivism. The agency will also develop histories on the roots of those safety services during this 150th anniversary year.

Current Idaho Prisons and Year Opened

Idaho State Correctional Institution, 1972      
North Idaho Correctional Institution, 1974       
Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino, 1984   
South Idaho Correctional Institution, 1986     
Idaho Maximum Security Institution, 1989           
St. Anthony Work Camp, 1991   
Pocatello Women's Correctional Center, 1994  
South Boise Women's Correctional Center, 1998 
Idaho Correctional Center, 2000                      
Correctional Alternative Placement Program, 2010


Recent IDOC Directors

2007-Current   Brent D. Reinke
2006-2007       Vaughn Killeen
2001-2006       Thomas Beauclair
1993-2001       James Spalding


The Old Pen

Much of IDOC’s history is on display at the Old Idaho State Penitentiary off of Warm Springs Avenue east of Boise.  The site is now maintained by the Idaho Historical Society.  Visitors can tour the old cell blocks, view photographs of the facility when it was in operation and learn about some of  the notable inmates who were incarcerated there. They include Harry Orchard, who assassinated Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905, and Lyda Southard, who was known as Idaho's Lady Bluebeard. She was convicted of killing several of her husbands to collect their life insurance.

The Old Pen is open seven-days a week except for state holidays. To learn more, visit the Idaho Historical Society’s website.