A spinning jail sounds kind of wild, but at one point in time, a rotary jail was used in Indiana.

WKDQ-FM logo
Get our free mobile app

The First and Last Working Rotary Jail in the United States

Located just up the road from the Tri-State in Crawfordsville, Indiana is the last working rotary jail in the United States. And as you can tell by the name, the jail does indeed still spin  (more on why in just a second). The Rotary Jail Museum of Crawfordsville Indiana was the first rotary jail built of 18, and was built in the year 1882. It is currently one of three left standing and the one in the Hoosier state is the only one that is still operational.

Google Maps/canva
Google Maps/canva

Here's what RotaryJailMuseum.org says about the jail:

The first of 18 rotary jails built, and 1 of only 3 left standing, our unique structure is the only rotary jail in existence that is still operational. We do rotate the mechanism regularly for tours.


So Why Does the Jail Spin?

This seems to be the question people first ask, okay the jail rotates, but why? Well, it's not the entire jail itself that rotates, it's just the cells. The cells are all in a two-story circle sitting on a rotating base that is operated by a hand crank. So if a guard needed a specific inmate they could rotate the cells until they got to that specific inmate.

The idea for a rotating jail was originally thought to be safer for the guards as the rotating jail made it virtually impossible for the inmates to escape. It also made it easier for fewer guards to keep eyes on inmates instead of needing several guards because they could just rotate the crank to see each of the inmates.


Major Safety Concerns

While in theory this sounds fine, logistically a rotary jail was a huge safety risk, not to mention a major fire safety hazard.  Since there was only one entrance/exit to the cells, for all of the prisoners to get out the jail would have to be cranked to get everyone out.

Due to the many safety issues, the Rotary jail was immobilized in the 1930s due to prisoner safety issues, but the jail itself was in operation until the 1970s. Some inmates would end up with broken, or even amputated limbs after getting them caught in the bars of the rotating jail.

While the Rotary Jail is no longer a jail, it is now the Rotary Jail Museum, and they offer tours daily.

LOOK: Best counties to retire to in Indiana

Stacker compiled a list of the best counties to retire in Indiana using data from Niche.

Gallery Credit: Stacker

More From WKDQ-FM