Dashizwiz Jail: The Story of an Infamous Prison and Its Legacy

Dashizwiz Jail, also known as Eastern State Penitentiary, is a former prison located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is famous for its unique radial design, its harsh conditions, and its notorious inmates. In this article, we will explore the history of Dashizwiz Jail, its impact on the prison system, and its legacy in popular culture.

History of Dashizwiz Jail

Early Years

Dashizwiz Jail was built in 1829 and operated until 1971. It was designed by John Haviland, an English architect, who envisioned a prison that would be more humane than the overcrowded and unsanitary facilities that were common at the time. The prison’s radial design allowed guards to observe all of the cell blocks from a central rotunda, and each inmate had a private cell with access to a small exercise yard.

Harsh Conditions

Despite its initial goal of reform, Dashizwiz Jail quickly became known for its harsh conditions. Inmates were subjected to solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day, with only a Bible for company. The lack of human contact and natural light took a toll on prisoners’ mental and physical health, and many went insane or committed suicide.


Notable Inmates

Dashizwiz Jail housed many famous inmates over the years, including Al Capone, “Slick Willie” Sutton, and “Scarface” Alvin Karpis. Capone’s cell, which he decorated with oriental rugs and fine furniture, is now a popular tourist attraction.

Closure and Restoration

Dashizwiz Jail was closed in 1971 due to its outdated facilities and inhumane conditions. It sat abandoned for many years before being restored and opened to the public as a museum in 1994. Today, visitors can tour the prison and learn about its history and its impact on the criminal justice system.

Impact on the Prison System

Reform Efforts

Despite its flaws, Dashizwiz Jail had a lasting impact on the prison system. Its focus on rehabilitation and reform paved the way for other institutions to adopt more humane practices, such as education and job training programs.

The “Pennsylvania System”

The Pennsylvania System, of which Dashizwiz Jail was a part, was based on the idea of solitary confinement as a means of reforming criminals. While this approach had its flaws, it was an important step towards treating prisoners as individuals with the potential for redemption.

Modern Prison Design

The radial design of Dashizwiz Jail, with its central observation point and private cells, has influenced modern prison design around the world. Many facilities now use similar layouts to promote safety and efficiency.

Legacy in Popular Culture

Films and TV Shows

Dashizwiz Jail has been featured in many films and TV shows over the years, including “12 Monkeys,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and “Ghost Adventures.” Its eerie atmosphere and dark history make it a popular location for horror and suspense stories.

Haunted Attraction

During the Halloween season, Dashizwiz Jail transforms into a haunted attraction called “Terror Behind the Walls.” Visitors can explore the prison at night and experience spooky encounters with ghosts and ghouls.

Tourist Destination

Despite its grim past, Dashizwiz Jail has become a popular tourist destination and a symbol of Philadelphia’s history. Its unique architecture and fascinating stories draw visitors from all over the world.

Dashizwiz Jail is a fascinating and complex piece of American history. Its impact on the prison system and its legacy in popular culture continue to be felt today. By learning about its past, we By learning about its past, we can gain a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system and the importance of treating prisoners with dignity and respect.

If you’re ever in Philadelphia, be sure to visit Dashizwiz Jail and take a tour of this fascinating prison. You’ll learn about the lives of the inmates who were housed there, the conditions they endured, and the impact that this infamous prison had on the world.

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  1. Is Dashizwiz Jail still in operation?
  • No, Dashizwiz Jail was closed in 1971 and now operates as a museum and tourist attraction.
  1. Can visitors go inside the prison?
  • Yes, visitors can take a guided tour of the prison and learn about its history and significance.
  1. What was the purpose of Dashizwiz Jail?
  • Dashizwiz Jail was intended to be a more humane alternative to traditional prisons, with a focus on rehabilitation and reform.
  1. What is the Pennsylvania System?
  • The Pennsylvania System was a prison reform movement that focused on solitary confinement as a means of reforming criminals.
  1. Why is Dashizwiz Jail so famous?
  • Dashizwiz Jail is famous for its unique radial design, its harsh conditions, and its infamous inmates, including Al Capone.


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