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The Yuma Territorial Prison was significant because it was a large boost for Yuma’s economy, it was unconventional for a typical prison at the time, and it brought people of all races, religion and age into Yuma. It was originally going to be placed in Phoenix, but one Jose Maria Redondo thought it would be better suited in Yuma, so he crossed out “Phoenix” and put Yuma on the paper that said it was going to be in Phoenix and thus history was made. The prison itself was a significant boost for the local economy. It was very unusual for a prison at the time, as it was more humane. The prison also brought a more diverse population to Yuma, bringing people of all different races and religions.First of all, the prison brought a variety of jobs for the local tribesman of Yuma. They could sign up to be bounty hunters, or “trackers” as they called them. What they would do is scout outside the prison for any escapees. The prison would give them $90 for any prisoner they brought back, dead or alive, however they usually kept them alive, because they would more than likely try to escape again, which is 90 more dollars if they catch them again.Due to the prison bringing in so many people to Yuma, the population dramatically increased during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the end of the prison’s life cycle, over 3,000 people were imprisoned within the Territorial. It wasn’t just because of the prisoners, either; they had to hire people from everywhere to actually help manage the prison. Carpenters for building, metalworkers for all of the metal works, trained gunmen to shoot the prisoners if things got out of hand — needless to say, this brought in a lot of people looking for jobs.The prison itself was very humane unlike other prisons at the time. First off, it had a school where any prisoner could go to, and it is where a lot of prisoners learned to read and write. Along with this, it also had a windowless library. It also had access to a hospital and medical attention when needed. Every prisoner came equipped with a cap, two pairs of underwear, two handkerchiefs, two towels, one extra pair of pants, two pairs of socks, and a pair of shoes. They were even allowed to bring a toothbrush, comb, photos, a toothpick, books, tobacco and bedding. If you still aren’t impressed yet, it also had working electricity and ventilation units! The townspeople of Yuma at the time called the prison a country club because of the various amenities the prisoners had, and even called it “state of the art”. Needless to say, they also said that the prisoners had it too easy.The punishments for the prison weren’t even that harsh. The prison had a “dark cell”: a 15-by-15 foot cell where prisoners were isolated from the rest of the prison and were fed bread and water twice a day. They also had to wear a ball and chain around their ankle if they tried to escape. It served as a punishment for prisoners breaking the rules. However, some of the rules broken for the dark cell are quite contradictory; two days for bathing, three days for littering the yard, or three to ten days for gambling, but making a knife would only get you one day in the dark cell.The prison also held a diverse bunch, with people coming from practically everywhere in the world — Mexico, China, Scotland, Russia, Ireland, you name it. It also held people of every religion and race. There was only one recorded buddhist, and six recorded African Americans, one of whom was the last prisoner of the Territorial: C.J. Jackson, who was moved to the newly built prison in Florence to finish his sentence for adultery, of all things.Of course, with the diverse cast of over 3,000 characters, there’s some prisoners that have gotten well known over the years. One of these people is Barney K. Riggs, who stopped the infamous Gates Riot in 1887. One night, as Superintendent Gates was about to leave the prison, a prisoner told him about his interest in making shoes, which Gates’ job was at the time besides being superintendent. Whilst distracted, 2 men grabbed Gates from behind and threatened to kill him if he didn’t open the gate. Gates reluctantly obliged, opening the gates for them. They were joined by four other men, and four of them escaped to grab guns and ammo. A yardmaster tried to stop the escapees, but was hit with a pick. Fortunately for him, he did stop one of the men. Another guard shot one of the prisoners. Gates was free long enough to signal a guard in the tower, who shot three of the men. At this point, there was only one of the escapees standing, and he proceeded to stab Gates in the neck. At this point. Riggs took the pistol off one of the men and shot the man who was stabbing Gates. Riggs was pardoned in 1887. Sadly, Gates never fully recovered, and later committed suicide.Another famous resident of the Territorial was Pearl Hart, with her partner only known as Joe Boot. They were arrested for robbing a stagecoach, and got 30 years for it. Hart was able to get attention to all of the men in or working at the prison, and her flirting and charm were what got her pardoned in 1902. She later tried to become an actress, but that didn’t go so well. As for Boot, he was riding a stagecoach and then escaped in 1901 and was never heard from again. He was one of the 26 prisoners that escaped the Territorial.The prison shut down in 1909. Eventually, the prison evolved into a high school, which then became Yuma High School, where the name “the Yuma Criminals” comes from. Hobos used the cells for sleeping in the 1920s and 30s, and during the Great Depression homeless families lived in them. In total, 111 prisoners died during their sentence in the Territorial.The prison was significant to the history of Yuma because the local economy got a large boost, the prison was very unconventional at the time, and it brought people of all races and religions to Yuma. The prison itself was a large boost for the economy because it opened up more opportunities for jobs. The prison’s ethics were very unusual at the time, as they were more humane than anything. The prison brought a diverse population, bringing in people from all over the world to the prison.

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