Friday, September 27, 2013

Anamosa, then and now

This building is located in Anamosa, Iowa, 25 miles from Cedar Rapids. It was built between 1875 and 1899, and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It has even given its name to a historic district in Anamosa.

Its occupants probably do not fully appreciate its history and architecture. The building is a penitentiary, still housing inmates.

Two things are striking about the facility. First, it is remarkable how only a little over a century ago a building intended to house hardened criminals was designed with exterior beauty in mind. You may or may not like the Gothic/Romanesque/Victorian mash-up style, but there is no doubt that it was intended to be visually pleasing and add to the townscape.

Planning an attractive prison today would be considered an act of folly. Hell, we even make our new art museums or additions to old ones ugly.

 Royal Ontario Museum with its new entrance

Second: aside from its exterior, the Anamosa Penitentiary is the very model of forward-thinking criminology. According to Wikipedia:
Supporting the Treatment and Security functions of the prison there is also a comprehensive program of religious services, physical, and creative activities.
A.S.P. Religion Center: This offers an expanding variety of services, programs, and studies from multiple faith groups. These include (listed alphabetically): Asatru, Buddhist, Christian (Catholic, Liturgical Protestant, Pentecostal & Gospel), Jehovah's Witnesses, Moorish Science Temple of America, Muslim (Sunni), Nation of Gods and Earths, Native American sacred ceremonies, Satanist, and Wicca. The program is supported by 60+ regular volunteers who are clergy and lay authorities in their various faith groups.
"Sorry, Warden, I can't make it to the license plate shop this afternoon. I'm on my way to Asatru class, and after that, my Satanist studies."

I wonder how they recruit the teachers or ministers. Ads in newspapers or online?

is currently seeking a
Certified Satanist 
(Must have M.S. degree in Creative Incarceration)

To serve in magnificent building in historic district of Anamosa

All benefits, including subsidized higher education leading to an
Advanced Satanist certificate

Women and minorities encouraged to apply

If only Alcatraz had been run along such progressive lines.


zazie said...

I would never have thought such a sinister topic (the art of prison-building) could make me laugh so heartily! Thank you!
Now, I wonder whether our behated Minister of Justice, Madame Taubira, can understand English ; if she does, I may transfer your post to her ; if she does not, I may even translate it, though I guess she has absolutely no sense of humor.
Do you also have politicians who think there are too many criminals in jails? She does think so apparently.

Rick Darby said...

We have many overcrowded prisons, so in a sense there are too many people in jail. That doesn't mean we should let prisoners out to prey on the community again before they've served all or nearly all of their sentence -- "do the crime, do the time" -- but we should build more prisons to house them in reasonably humane conditions.

Did you know that in the United States many "corrections facilities" are run by private companies under contracts with states? We are truly the land of free enterprise!

YIH said...

My Grandmother died today.
She made it to 97 (I kid you not).

Rick Darby said...


God bless her.

Are you doing all right?

YIH said...

I'm all right. As you can guess, it came as a shock (it always does) but hardly unexpected. Her health had been in decline for the past two years and it seems she had a stroke - that she couldn't recover from.
She had several TIA's (so-called 'mini-strokes') over the years and this one was 'the big one'.
As noted, the primary cause of death for a 97-year old is well, being a 97-year old. The only difference is 'stroke' listed as cause of death instead of 'old age'.

YIH said...

BTW you prediction of 'more mall security' is already beginning to take shape. The article quoted there makes what that actually means about as clear as mud. And even that particular mall is on the horns of a dilemma; if they 'TSA' everyone entering, people will stop entering. Unlike sports stadiums or airports a mall has no 'lock' on a regional market.