Sean Kelley, Senior Vice President, Director of Interpretation at East Eastern State Penitentiary discussed the history of one the most famous and expensive prisons in the world. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Designed to look like a castle on the outside and church within, it influenced builders across the world as its methods fell out of favor. Its solitary cells once held many of America’s most notorious lawbreakers, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone. It closed in 1972, falling into disrepair as the city went through plans to either to replace, rebuild and demolish it. Finally opened as an historic site, today Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, with installations and displays aiming to spark conversation and reflection.
The site also employs the formerly incarcerated, as guides and interpreters and in on-going restoration projects to get them into the pipeline for good-paying trades jobs.
The site is open daily except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Day and Thanksgiving. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; a Guide-Led Tour and discussion; hands-on experiences and the critically-acclaimed artist installations and award-winning exhibits.
Sean was excited to share the return of their annual award-winning Halloween themed evening event, Halloween Nights. This year visitors can travel at their own pace, enjoyed five rooms of frights, themed bars and lounges with live entertainment. It also offers the rare opportunity to tour some of the more popular historic tour experiences by night.
For more information and tickets visit