During a June heat wave in Boise, Idaho, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW visited the Old Idaho Penitentiary, (known as "The Old Pen" to locals) to learn more about law enforcement collectibles with host Mark L. Walberg and expert Gary Piattoni.
The "Old Pen" opened its doors in 1872 and remained open for 101 years. Over that period of time, it received over 13,000 inmates, with a maximum population of over 600 inmates. In 1971 and 1973, serious inmate riots broke out over living conditions in the prison. The convicts were subsequently moved to a new facility in Boise and the "Old Pen" was closed.
The walls of the penitentiary, administration building, and cell houses were made out of sandstone from the nearby area. The surrounding wall was built by inmate laborers.
A Secret Garden
One of the 30 historic buildings at the penitentiary. The area was once used as a test garden for a rose company named Jackson and Perkins.
The "Old Pen"
Another view of the old sandstone walls across the penitentiary yard.
Convicts who served time at this location included 222 women and some of Idaho's most notorious criminals.
The Cell Block
The interior walls of the cell blocks are currently painted with the same paint used for license plates, one of the items inmate laborers would paint.
Securing the Cells
Both men's and women's cells had bars like these to secure prisoners.
View from Above
The ROADSHOW team sets up on the first floor of a cell block to shoot a segment about prison collectibles.
Host Mark L. Walberg considers the objects he will discuss in this video segment, including a ball and chain and ankle restraint called "the Gardner shackle" or "Oregon boot."
Handle with Care
Expert Gary Piattoni puts on white gloves to handle these antique pieces that represent a bygone era of the now-closed prison.
The Law Enforcement Collectibles
The ball and chain, ankle restraint, and shooting medal are important and compelling pieces from the "Old Pen" to be considered within the broader scope of Boise's history.
The Shooting Match
This shooting medal was won by a team of Idaho State Penitentiary guards in a shooting match against the Zouave (militia recruited by the governor at the time) team in the 19th century. It's noteworthy as a law-enforcement collectible because of the label; it also appeals to collectors interested in shooting badges and western history in general.
The Classic Restraint
The ball and chain, a typical restraint used on prisoners, made movement arduous for criminals and hindered attempts to escape. Chains would be locked to the ankles of the wearer while he would typically carry the ball with both hands. This particular ball and chain is missing a cuff and was found outside prison walls. What was it doing there? The answer remains a mystery.
Mark and Gary between takes for the ROADSHOW segment.
Exploring a Cell
After the shoot, Gary and Mark enter one of the cells and take a seat on a bed in the men's ward.
Locked and Ready to Screen
All locked up: a successful day of shooting brought to light some of this important prison's history that began in the nascent state of Boise and ended in December 1973.