York Town Square

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York’s Chestnut Street fortress bad symbol of York’s past

Old prison a symbol of a lot that was not right about York.

The old county prison, declared an endangered York site this week, was endangered even when it was operating.
The Chestnut Street prison served as the county’s lockup from 1906 to the late 1970s, when prisoners were moved to a new Springettsbury Township jail. The fortress-like structure has stood vacant since.
But as this excerpt from “Never to be Forgotten” attests, the prison was a symbol of a lot that was not right about York as recently as the 1950s.

Five prisoners flee from York County Jail, said to be the largest county prison escape on record. But that is just the first of a series of concerns directed at the Chestnut Street jail:
Critics blast the jail’s practice of segregating black and white male prisoners at night in different cell blocks. Black and white males also receive visitors on separate days, although visitors can see minority and white women on the same day. When only one woman is incarcerated, she is housed in a padded cell, perhaps to keep from opening larger quarters for a single inmate. Further, two former inmates contend the only meat they were served in a two-week stint was venison from a carcass state police had removed from a county road. The inmates also claim the jail was full of bedbugs, and jail officials did not demand newcomers to take a bath or shower. A York County osteopath, who had spent time in jail rather than pay a parking ticket, made the same claims.

The county later constructed a new prison in Pleasant Acres, Springettsbury Township. Today, the deteriorating former jail stands deserted. A proposal to convert the barred building into a restaurant in the 1980s fizzled because of cost.
Related prison-related posts and photographs:
Wanted: ‘Inmates’ to fill old York County prison
If Boston can turn prison in hotel, York can …
For sale: 100-year-old fortress-like prison
Old York County jail on endangered list
Prison listing brings back food loaf memories
‘There were only so many cells in that old stone prison