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Illinois Genealogy Resources

Prison Records

The prison in Alton was the state's first prison, and was completed in 1831. It closed in 1860, when the Joliet prison opened. Menard Penitentiary, at Chester, was built in 1877. The Illinois State Archives  holds the REGISTERS OF PRISONERS 243.200 in their possession.  You can request copies of this register by writing to the State Archives.  Be sure to include the section of the Archive descriptive holdings that contains the record you are looking for. (Department of Corrections, RG 243, ISA). Access to some records is restricted by "Freedom of Information Act," Illinois Compiled Statues, chap. 5, sec. 140; and "Unified Code of Corrections," Illinois Compiled Statutes, chap. 730, sec. 5.

  • The Joliet, Illinois Prison Convict Register. Illinois Trails. The Joliet Correctional Center is the oldest of Illinois' four maximum security facilities. Thirty-three inmates were first received at Joliet in May 1858. Joliet Correctional Center was built partly due to the overcrowding of the prison at Alton, the state's first prison, which closed in 1860. In December 1872, Joliet had an inmate population of 1,239 making it the largest prison in the United States, a distinction it held for several decades.