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Ohio State Reformatory - Mansfield, OH

In 1862 the land where the reformatory now sits was used as a Civil War training field. The Mansfield Reformatory was built on that land in 1886 and 1910. In 1891 the name was changed to Ohio State Reformatory. On September 15, 1896 the reformatory opened and housed 150 offenders.

In the 1930’s, after a riot broke out, guards made 120 rioters share 12 solitary confinement cells for a week without food and water. In the 1960’s the prison became so overcrowded that prisoners had to double up in cells on death row. Many of the prisoners died of influenza and tuberculosis, went crazy or hung themselves.

Ohio State Reformatory remained in full operation until 1990 when it was closed due to a prisoner’s class action suit citing overcrowding and inhumane conditions. During the course of 94 years it is said that 154,000 inmates were imprisoned at the reformatory.

The prison is open for guided or self-guided tours. Also available are ghost walks since the reformatory has been reported to be haunted by the prisoners that have died there. We chose to do the self-guided tour to visit the halls & cells of some of history’s toughest criminals. The eastern cell block which is 6 floors and housed 600 cell blocks was definitely creepy.

Five movies have been filmed at the reformatory including Air Force One, Tango and Cash, Harry and Walter Go to New York, Escape Plan: The Extractors, Judas and the Black Messiah and Shawshank Redemption.

We toured the sets of the 1994 film Shawshank Redemption, the fictional story of Andy Dufresne. You can visit Andy’s office, the Warden’s office, Brooks’ hotel room, the Shawshank Museum and many more of the movie sets.

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