Aerial: What’s Open, Closed at State Pen

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary traces back to 1908, when reformer Kate Barnard exposed brutal conditions in the Kansas Penitentiary, where Oklahoma inmates were being held. Within a few months the inmates were moved to McAlester, where they began helping build the prison, wrote Harjit Sandhu in his book History of Corrections in Oklahoma. Much of the prison was destroyed in a 1973 riot, but new units were built in the 1980s and 1990s. Now a large swath of the southern half of OSP is empty, as cell houses have been closed and the rodeo is inactive. A new administration building is planned.


1. Rodeo Arena: Built in the 1950s, arena hosted annual rodeo and drew 60,000-plus over four days in 1960s; event last held in 2009.

2. Units G and I: Closed. Formerly hospital and staff offices and cells for disciplining medium-security inmates.

3. Administration building: Warden’s, deputy wardens’, others’ offices. Built in 1940s.  Building has settled and has needed major maintenance.

4. Rotunda: Five-story open area connecting now-closed cell wings. Guard in center. Building has deteriorated.

5., 6. West and East Cell Houses: Closed. Last offenders were removed in 1995. Cells cannot be renovated to meet standards.

7. Cell House F: Closed in 2012. Was built in 1933, renovated several times.

8., 9. Units D and E: Mental health housing.

10. Medical building: Holds infirmary ward and cells; re-roofed in 2004.

11. East Gate: Arrival gate for inmates.

12. Unit A: Only unit left with general population inmates. 

13. Unit C: Closed earlier this year, but 221 cells will be re-opened, as more staff is brought on, because of overcrowding. Built in 1983; roof and building had deteriorated.

14., 15., 16. Warehouses: Used for food, maintenance and general storage.

17. Unit H: Built in 1991. Death Row is on second floor; building also has execution chamber and administrative and disciplinary segregation cells.

Sources: Oklahoma Watch research; report by consultant Durrant Group.

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