History of the Idaho Department of Correction

Old photo of three men with hounds
Photo courtesy Idaho Historical Society

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 a 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.

In addition to prisons, the department supervises offenders living in Idaho communities and provides education, treatment and reentry services to help reduce recidivism.

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

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 State Correctional Center, 2000
Correctional Alternative Placement Program, 2010

 

IDOC Directors since 1993

2016 -   Henry Atencio
2014 - 2016   Kevin H. Kempf
2007 - 2014   Brent D. Reinke
2006 - 2007   Vaughn Killeen
2001 - 2006   Thomas Beauclair
1993 - 2001   James Spalding

The Old Pen's wardens

U.S. Marshal Jos. Pinkham 1872 – 1878
U.S. Marshal Eben Chase 1879 – 1882
U.S. Marshal Fred Dubois 1882 – 1886
U.S. Marshal Ezra Baird 1886 – 1889
U.S. Marshal John Wilson 1889 - 1891
W.S. Mack Feb. 11, 1891 – Mar. 31, 1892
Frank Jenne Apr. 1, 1892 – Dec. 14, 1892
Orlando Robbins Dec. 15, 1892 – Jan. 5, 1893
John Campbell Jan. 6, 1893 – Mar. 31, 1897
Charles Van Dorn Apr. 1, 1897 – Jan. 1, 1899
John Hailey, Sr. Jan. 2, 1899 – Mar. 31, 1901
Charles Arney Apr. 1, 1901 – Sept. 27, 1902
Ernest Ballard Sept. 28, 1902 – Jan. 31, 1903
Charles Perrin Feb. 1, 1903 – Dec. 7, 1904
Daniel Ackley Dec. 8, 1904 – Mar. 5, 1905
E.L. Whitney Mar. 6, 1905 – Apr. 30, 1909
John Snook May 1, 1909 – Dec. 31, 1916
Frank Dekay Jan. 1, 1917 – Jan. 6, 1919
William Cuddy Jan. 7, 1919 – July 23, 1924
John Snook July 24, 1924 – Jan. 15, 1925
Joseph Wheeler Jan. 16, 1925 – Mar. 31, 1931
R. E. Thomas Apr. 1, 1931 – Mar. 26, 1933
George Rudd Mar. 27, 1933 – Dec. 7, 1933
Ira Taylor Dec. 19, 1933 – Mar. 16, 1937
Paris O’Neil March 17, 1937 – March 23, 1937
William Gess March 24, 1937 – Dec. 22, 1937
Rex Smith Dec. 23, 1937 – Feb. 2, 1938
Pearl Meredith Feb. 3, 1938 – Aug. 15, 1940
Gilbert Tally Aug. 15, 1940 – Aug. 30, 1941
Charles Van Clark Sept. 1, 1941 – Apr. 15, 1943
Samuel Poarch Apr. 15, 1943 – Jan. 8, 1945
Lewis Clapp Jan. 9, 1945 – Mar. 29, 1966
Mark Maxwell Apr. 20, 1966 – Sept. 14, 1967
Orville Stiles Sept. 15, 1967 – Nov. 19, 1968
Fred Abrams Nov. 20, 1968 – Dec. 20, 1968
Virgil L. Cary Dec. 20, 1968 – Mar. 25, 1969
Fred Abrams March 25, 1969 – April 21, 1969
Raymond May Apr. 22, 1969 – 1975
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