This archived article was written by: Morgan Verdi
Thirty-plus criminal justice majors, along with their professors and staff, departed from Price, Utah, headed on their annual trip. This year went to Las Vegas, Nev., and Yuma. Ariz. to visit The Mob Museum in Las Vegas as well as The Yuma Territorial Prison in Yuma on April 3-6.
Associate Professor Scott Henrie was one of the people behind the scenes that made the trip possible. He said, “When I first started working for USU Eastern, one of the things I loved to do was take the CJ Club and do different things with them. In fact, the very first year I was here we took the students to Alcatraz Prison and every year in my corrections class, I would take my students to the prison in Draper, Utah, and tour it just so they could get that experience. They stopped offering the tours there so we decided to see different prisons so students could see what it’s like.
“We decided to go to Yuma this year because it’s a prison that both Dr. [Rich] Walton and I are familiar with because of the movie “3:10 to Yuma,” so it popped in our mind and we thought, ‘hey let’s go to Yuma.’
“We also knew that it had a big history. Jose Maria Rendondo and R.B. Kelly kind of cheated to have the prison built there so the history of it played a big part as well. We try to pick prisons that have a unique aspect to them and The Yuma Territorial Prison is very unique.”
In 1876, the first seven inmates entered the Territorial Prison at Yuma and were locked into the new cells they had built themselves. A total of 3,069 prisoners, including 29 women, lived within the walls during the prison’s 33 years of operation.
Punishments included the dark cell for inmates who broke prison regulations, and the ball and chain for those who tried to escape.
By 1907, the prison was severely overcrowded with no room for expansion. The convicts constructed a new facility in Florence, Ariz. The last prisoner left Yuma in September 1909.
There is a lot of planning that goes into making the trip happen. In fact, planning starts a year in advance. Henrie said, “We are already planning for next year’s trip. First, you have to decide where you want to go, then you sit down and think if it is feasible or not and figure out the cost factor. Then you have to schedule rooms, which usually means calling months in advance because you have to block out sections of rooms. This trip took a lot of planning because we went to Vegas, so that took a ton of organizing because it’s such a big place. Next year we are thinking of going to Montana and Wyoming.”
On top of going to the prison and gaining that experience, much more was gained as well. Henie said, “Many of the students had never been outside of Utah and had never really seen the Vegas lifestyle. Not to mention we were right outside the United States-Mexico border. The students definitely got to see many different aspects of lifestyles and cultures that they may have not seen before.”
Henrie enjoyed the prison tour the most. He said, “I had been looking forward to the tour, knowing some of the history of the prison so I was excited to see it. Everyone that takes my classes knows I love prisons, their culture and everything about them is so fascinating to me and to see how they began, to what they’ve developed into is what I love to read about and see.”
The students learned a lot by seeing the living circumstances inmates were put in back in the 1800s. Henrie said, “In class, we talk about the corporal punishment and about the torture. We talk about the living conditions, but for students to actually be able to see that and think ‘wow people actually lived in that cell.’ I think it was a very eye opening experience and one that you can’t get from a classroom.”
In regards to next year’s trip, Henrie said, “We have already looked at the routes to go to both Montana and Wyoming and it’s very feasible. What we’ll look at is time span and cost so we will keep working on plans to get ready for next year.”