I recently traveled to Mansfield, Ohio with Thomas Nighswander of Michigan Photo Adventures and a group of photographers to tour the Mansfield Reformatory which was made famous by being the predominant location for the famous movie "The Shawshank Redemption".  The exterior represents a Romanesque style design with its castle-like appearance. 

The Mansfield Reformatory was constructed between the years of 1886 and 1910 and functioned as a full fledged prison until it was closed down by a federal court in 1990.  The historic prison has also been a venue for scenes in the movies Tango & Cash, Air Force One, as well as music videos by Godsmack and L'il Wayne.  

The original use of the reformatory was a training camp for Civil War Soldiers.  The construction of the institution was completed by well-known architect F.F Schnitzer whose name also appears on documents as a Superintendent.  The first group of prisoners were brought in from Columbus in 1896 and were immediately put to work on the prison sewer system.

Locked in

The East Cell block which is comprised of six tiers remains the largest cell block in the prison.

One door always leads to another.  The stairs though the door lead to what was once a church which now seems to be a fraction of what it once was.  Although there are areas of moderate dilapidation, the majority of the building is sound.

This area of worship barely resembles such an institution yet contains just enough artifacts to imagine what might have been here.

Pick a room - any room

The cells are open for viewing to imagine what the cramped living quarters might have been like.  This serves as a reminder is that there is always a price to pay and retribution has its purposes.  Unfortunately, these spartan conditions and tortuous lifestyle only lead to an inability to cope with society causing criminals to return after a short time.

This photo gives one an ideal of the amenities or lack thereof for one in such a situation.  The message here is for must of us, things are not that bad.  Then again, we didn't place ourselves in such a position to receive such accommodations.

Above is a birds eye view of a prison cell in the main cell block.  One can only imagine what a day in here would be like.

The cause of the reformatory shutting down in 1990 was due to a prisoners' class action lawsuit which claimed extreme overcrowding and inhumane conditions. 

These are the main stairs which greet the visitors beginning the tour.  The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society is currently working to restore the prison to its original condition.  The repairs are completed by funding from the ongoing tours and various donations.  This place is definitely worth the drive and can be visited year round.