State Correctional Institution – Pittsburgh

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State Correctional Institution – Pittsburgh
Seal of the Department of Corrections of Pennsylvania.svg
State Correctional Institution – Pittsburgh is located in Pennsylvania
State Correctional Institution – Pittsburgh
Location in Pennsylvania
LocationPittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Coordinates40°28′13″N 80°2′28″W / 40.47028°N 80.04111°W / 40.47028; -80.04111Coordinates: 40°28′13″N 80°2′28″W / 40.47028°N 80.04111°W / 40.47028; -80.04111
Security classLow-Security, Medium-Security
1882 (Present location)
Former nameWestern Penitentiary
Managed byPennsylvania Department of Corrections
GovernorTom Wolf
WardenMark V. Capozza

State Correctional Institution – Pittsburgh (historically known as the "Western Penitentiary" or "Western Pen") was a low-to-medium security correctional institution, operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, located[1] about five miles west of Downtown Pittsburgh and within city limits. The facility is on the banks of the Ohio River, and is located on 21 acres of land. (12 acres within the perimeter fence.) It was the first prison west of the Atlantic Plain as well as a major Civil War prison in 1863–1864.

On January 26 2017, Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf announced the closing of this facility


Western Penitentiary was originally built in 1826 a few blocks east of the current facility by the architect Strickland.[2]

During Charles Dickens visit to the city March 20-22 1842, he visited the original prison and some scholars believe he based the classic A Christmas Carol on conditions at the facility.

Group of "Morgan's Men" while prisoners of war in Western Penitentiary, Pennsylvania: (l to r) Captain William E. Curry, 8th Kentucky Cavalry; Lieutenant Andrew J. Church, 8th Kentucky Cavalry; Lieutenant Leeland Hathaway, 14th Kentucky Cavalry; Lieutenant Henry D. Brown, 10th Kentucky Cavalry; Lieutenant William Hays, 20th Kentucky Cavalry. All were captured with John Hunt Morgan in Ohio. 1863

The original location is also famous for housing 118 Confederate soldiers after their capture in Morgan's Raid a dozen miles to the west. It held them from August 5, 1863 until they were transferred to a military fort in New Jersey on March 18, 1864. Although conditions were good for the time, at least eight confederates died during the winter, one while attempting escape.[3]

The present facility opened on its current site in 1882, operating as one of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's first correctional facilities, which at the time, held some maximum-security inmates. In January 2005, after transferring the inmates to SCI-Fayette,[4] the facility was mothballed. In 2007, the facility re-opened with its current name.[5] It houses low and medium security inmates who require substance abuse treatment.

In 2017, Amazon has considered it as a potential site to build their new HQ2 [6]

G-20 Protests[edit]

During the 2009 G-20 Pittsburgh summit, the prison was used as the main processing facility for rioters and protesters that were detained and arrested during the week-long summit. Radio host Alex Jones has broadcast accounts of his staff being rounded up—with press credentials—to the prison.[citation needed]

Fictional Portrayals[edit]

The 1978 film The Brink's Job the character Stanley Gusciora is sentenced to 20 years at the "Western Penitentiary at Pittsburgh".


  1. ^ PA Dept. of Corrections – SCI Pittsburgh Webpage(Retrieved: 5/4/2011)
  2. ^ n° 295 de la revue : Architecture intérieure, CREE - 1977
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2004-01-19. Retrieved 2011-05-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Fayette residents hope prison holds promise of better future Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Retrieved:5/4/2011)
  5. ^ PA Dept. of Corrections – SCI Pittsburgh Webpage(Retrieved: 5/4/2011)
  6. ^

External links[edit]