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What is Stateville Correctional Center?

Stateville Correctional Center is a maximum-security prison in Illinois, known for its panopticon layout and housing some of the most notorious criminals. Its history reflects the evolving attitudes towards incarceration and rehabilitation. As we explore the complex legacy of Stateville, consider what its story reveals about the justice system's past and future. What can we learn from its corridors of confinement?
Matt Brady
Matt Brady

The Stateville Correctional Center is one of the most storied prisons in U.S. history. Built in 1925 in Crest Hill, Illinois, the maximum security state prison has housed numerous famed and notorious criminals, such as Leopold and Loeb, Richard Speck and John Wayne Gacy. It is also one of the most architecturally striking prisons, featuring the only remaining panopticon — a central tower with a complete view of surrounding prison cells — in the U.S. Stateville Correctional Center has also been well known as a controversial test site for malaria vaccines from the 1940s-60s. The prison remains in operation today, located off of historic Route 66.

Stateville Correctional Center, like many other famous prisons, may be best known for the famous criminals who have resided there. Leopold and Loeb, the Ivy League-educated murderers in pursuit of the perfect crime, were incarcerated at Stateville. Richard Loeb died while in prison after being attacked by a fellow inmate. Nathan Leopold was given early release in 1958. Richard Speck, who murdered eight Chicago nursing students, was also housed at Stateville. In 1996, a videotape from 1988 was publicly released, which showed Speck partying freely in his Stateville cell, apparently with drugs. The video sparked controversy and widespread indictment over the lax control in American prisons. John Wayne Gacy, a notorious serial killer, was given a lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center in 1994.

Stateville Correctional Center is located near historic Route 66.
Stateville Correctional Center is located near historic Route 66.

F-house, the name of one of the cell houses in the Stateville Correctional Center, is known for being the last remaining cell block in the U.S. to feature a panopticon. A panopticon is a guard tower which sits in the middle of a prison house and provides a 360-degree viewpoint. With the tower's superior vantage, inmates can never be sure whether they're being watched or not. The concept of a panopticon was developed by Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher who believed that the structure would be a tool for moral reformation in prison. His theory was that if prisoners had to assume they were being watched at all time, then behavior among inmates might improve, even with fewer guards on duty. Fewer guards required would also help prisons save money.

Stateville Correctional Center is a maximum security state prison that has housed many notorious criminals.
Stateville Correctional Center is a maximum security state prison that has housed many notorious criminals.

In the 1940s, the U.S. military, partnering with the University of Chicago, began conducting experiments with malaria on Stateville Correctional Center inmates — Leopold was one of them. The purpose was not only to study the effects of malaria within a controlled environment, but to test whether certain medications and vaccinations might be effective in fighting the disease. Although the tests were voluntary, with volunteers offered the incentive of lesser prison terms, they stirred up controversy among groups who felt such human testing was unethical. At the 1946 Medical Trial at Nuremberg, in which members of the Nazi party were convicted of crimes against humanity, it was argued that the experimentation going on at Stateville was not morally different than what Nazis had afflicted on the Jews. In the end, however, the Stateville experiments weren't deemed unethical, and continued over the next couple of decades.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Stateville Correctional Center?

The panopticon is a type of prison designed by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and was the subject of his book "Panopticon; or, the Inspection-House" published in 1785.
The panopticon is a type of prison designed by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and was the subject of his book "Panopticon; or, the Inspection-House" published in 1785.

Stateville Correctional Center is a maximum-security state prison for men located in Crest Hill, Illinois. It is part of the Illinois Department of Corrections and has been operational since 1925. The facility is known for its distinctive panopticon layout, which allows for maximum visibility of inmates. It houses a diverse inmate population, including those serving long-term sentences and those on death row before the state abolished the death penalty in 2011.

What is the capacity and current inmate population of Stateville Correctional Center?

As of recent data, Stateville Correctional Center has a capacity to house approximately 3,500 inmates, although the number fluctuates. The facility often operates at or near full capacity, reflecting broader trends in the state's correctional system. For the most current inmate population statistics, it is advisable to consult the Illinois Department of Corrections website or contact them directly.

What programs are available to inmates at Stateville Correctional Center?

Inmates at Stateville Correctional Center have access to various rehabilitation and educational programs aimed at reducing recidivism and preparing them for eventual reintegration into society. These include adult basic education, vocational training, college courses, and substance abuse treatment. Additionally, the facility offers religious services and mental health support to address the diverse needs of its inmate population.

Has Stateville Correctional Center been involved in any notable historical events?

Stateville Correctional Center has a rich history, including being the site of numerous scientific studies, such as the infamous malaria studies conducted during World War II. The prison has also been featured in films and television shows, further cementing its place in popular culture. Its unique architecture and long-standing presence have made it a subject of interest for historians and criminal justice professionals alike.

How does Stateville Correctional Center impact the local community?

Stateville Correctional Center impacts the local community in several ways, including providing employment opportunities as one of the area's significant employers. The facility's presence also contributes to the local economy through the purchase of goods and services. However, it also brings challenges, such as concerns about safety and the well-being of families of incarcerated individuals. Community programs often work in conjunction with the prison to address these issues and support reentry efforts.

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    • Stateville Correctional Center is located near historic Route 66.
      By: maxriesgo
      Stateville Correctional Center is located near historic Route 66.
    • Stateville Correctional Center is a maximum security state prison that has housed many notorious criminals.
      By: BortN66
      Stateville Correctional Center is a maximum security state prison that has housed many notorious criminals.
    • The panopticon is a type of prison designed by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and was the subject of his book "Panopticon; or, the Inspection-House" published in 1785.
      By: Georgios Kollidas
      The panopticon is a type of prison designed by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and was the subject of his book "Panopticon; or, the Inspection-House" published in 1785.