On July 1, 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 these walls during the prison’s thirty-three years of operation. Among the 29 women sentenced to Yuma was 16-year-old Maria Moreno, who shot her brother after he complained about the way she was dancing. There was also Pearl Hart. Pearl and her partner, Joe Boot, committed the last stagecoach robbery in Arizona. They robbed the Globe stage, and were caught very quickly. Joe Boot was sentenced to 30 years, and would later escape. Pearl Hart, after being tried twice, was given five years.
The prison was known for its strict rules; weapons, gambling, and fighting were prohibited, as was littering and failing to bathe. Those who broke the rules could be forced to wear the ball and chain and more serious offenders would be sent to the dark cell. The dark cell was basically an excavation in the hillside measuring 15’ by 15’, with a cage in the center.
Now a museum, the building houses photographs and colorful exhibits of those who once stayed there and the prison life they had to endure. Visitors can walk through the many cells and view the infamous dark cell.