Wyoming State Penitentiary
About the Wyoming State Penitentiary
The Wyoming State Penitentiary (WSP) is a high custody facility for both general population and administrative segregation housing. WSP is one of the larger WDOC facilities and typically the location most in need of correctional officers. WSP offers an intensive Field Training Officer (FTO) program once candidates complete Basic Training Academy to ensure our staff are highly trained. The primary goal for the Education Department at WSP is to provide a basic level of education that will enable inmates to successfully engage with the world around them. Adult male offenders are offered a variety of classroom and video educational and vocational programs. The institution also has a growing correctional industries program.
The Wyoming State Penitentiary is located in Rawlins, Wyoming. Take Exit #214 off of Interstate 80 at Higley Boulevard. Go South past T.A.'s Truck Stop and turn left at the security gates, parking in the Administration Building parking lot as posted.
If you travel to Rawlins by bus, taxi services may or may not be available. Before taking the bus, one should consult the phone book or online directory for taxi service.
History of the Wyoming State Penitentiary
Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary
When Wyoming was established as a territory, Wyoming's first major penal institution was the Territorial Penitentiary, located on a portion of the abandoned Fort Sanders Military Reservation now the city of Laramie. The federal government built this facility in the fall of 1873 and received its first prisoner in December of that year. Today, the Wyoming Territorial Prison is operated as a museum and is part of the Wyoming Territorial Park historic site.
Original Wyoming State Penitentiary
Looking toward eventual statehood, the Territorial Legislature in 1888 made provisions for some significant changes in its penal institution. While the Territorial Penitentiary was kept in operation, the legislature established the Penitentiary Building Commission, charged with site selection, procurement or architectural services and other preparations for a major penal institution near Rawlins. The National Territorial Building Act of 1888 authorized such a new territorial facility, at a cost not to exceed $100,000. Statehood came to Wyoming on July 10, 1890. The Wyoming State Constitution, Article 7, Section 18, and related statutes, established the Wyoming State Penitentiary and defined its functions. Article 7, Section 18 states that, "Such charitable, reformatory and penal institutions as the claims of humanity and the public good may require, shall be established and supported by the state in such manner as the legislature may prescribe. They shall be supervised as prescribed by law." In Article 7, Section 23, the Constitution states that "A penitentiary shall be located at or near the City of Rawlins, in the County of Carbon. The legislature may provide by law the location of other public institutions, including correctional facilities." The original Wyoming State Penitentiary was opened in 1901 and operated until 1981. Called the Wyoming Frontier Prison, it is now open for tours and is operated by the Friends of the Old Pen, Inc.
In 1980 the "new" Wyoming State Penitentiary was opened with the first inmates placed in "C" Block. The original housing capacity was 550 inmates. From that date through 1995 additional beds were added so that the total capacity was approximately 825. It was eventually determined that the safe housing capacity was 780 inmates.
In 1983 the West Tower was constructed and put into operation. In 1984 the East Tower was added to the perimeter security of the facility.
In 1995 the Intensive Treatment Unit for long-term substance abuse was opened.
During October 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice made the first of several site inspections under CRIPA (Civil Rights of Incarcerated Persons Act). When the DOJ issued their findings letter in Summer 1999, then State Attorney General Gay Woodhouse said that the factual information contained no surprises and that it documented issues that the department was working on before the DOJ visited the penitentiary. She added, however, that "while we disagree that any of the issues singly or together rise to the level of violating constitutional rights, we do agree with many of the recommendations in the letter. We will continue to work in cooperation with the Department of Justice to see that those recommendations are resolved."
When the High-Security Special Needs (HSSN) facility at the Wyoming State Penitentiary opened in Summer 2001, the 1980 facility came to be called the "North Facility," and the HSSN facility became the "South Facility."
At the time that the Wyoming Department of Corrections took possession of the new South Facility in Summer 2001 the department vacated the North Facility due to continuing life/safety issues that could not be immediately resolved. Inmates that would have been housed in the North Facility were moved to other WDOC facilities, to county jails, or to housing out-of-state.
In April 2002 the WDOC announced that the DOJ and the department had entered into a final agreement regarding the Wyoming State Penitentiary. It was noted that the State had one year to obtain substantial compliance with the terms of the agreement and one year to maintain compliance.
2001 South Facility, Administration and Warehouse Buildings, Central Production Facility
When the High Security/Special Needs Facility (South Facility) was planned, a new warehouse and administration building were also planned. Both the warehouse and the administration building were designed to service the entire complex. These two buildings were occupied in March 2000.
The South Facility opened in July 2001 to house inmates that needed high security or had special medical or mental health needs. The South Facility capacity including K-Unit/CPF is 826 inmates. Due to the vacating of the North Facility, the South Facility currently also houses medium and minimum security inmates.
In August 2002 the new Central Production Facility opened (kitchen and laundry facility) and the original kitchen/laundry facility was closed in the North Facility. This brought an end to any occupancy of the North Facility.