Joliet Correctional Center – Joliet, Illinois - Atlas Obscura

Joliet, Illinois

Joliet Correctional Center

A historic and oft-filmed prison stands in a Chicago suburb. 

This massive—and oddly palatial—defunct prison in Chicago’s Joliet suburb would be hard to miss no matter what. But most will recognize it as the spot where Elwood picked Jake up all those years ago in The Blues Brothers, or where Michael Scofield masterminded his brother’s breakout in the first season of Prison Break.

Built in 1858 and operational until 2002, the prison can claim historical significance for a bleak variety of reasons: It held prisoners of war during the Civil War and, by 1872, held more inmates than any prison in the country.

Conditions were bleak. The prison lacked running water and in-cell toilets until 1910. It welcomed “crime of the century” perpetrators Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in 1924, and saw an inmate murdered by members of a street gang during 1975 riots. The prison closed in 2002, when many of its facilities were declared obsolete.

Most of the complex is in surprisingly good shape, though one of the buildings was heavily damaged by arson in 2017. The place is completely boarded off for now, but the Joliet Area Historical Museum is vying to obtain rights to lead tours of the facilities. Till then, you won’t get farther than the yard.

 

Know Before You Go

You can access the grounds, but you cannot enter the prison buildings. You can visit the grounds daily from dawn until dusk.

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