A prison for 130 years, McNeil Island in Washington state operated far longer than the well-known Alcatraz island prison. When the state’s correctional center on McNeil Island closed in 2011, it was the last prison in the nation only accessible by air or water. From its humble beginnings as a territorial prison through its tenure as a federal and state penitentiary, McNeil can illuminate how incarceration in the U.S. has changed over time in response to evolving social views of crime and punishment.
McNeil: Washington’s Forgotten Island Prison presents history through accounts from prison staff, inmates, and residents of the island. It explores McNeil’s connections to significant state and national events, and examines the evolution of prison practicies through territorial, federal, and state lenses.
Incarceration in the United States is an important subject in any era. With national discourse currently re-evaluating issues such as mandatory sentencing laws, prison funding, and the incarceration rate, this exhibition offers context and points of reflection.
This fascinating exhibition opens January 26, 2019.
Stay tuned for links to the Historical Society's podcast series about McNeil in partnership with KNKX.org, airing in the fall of 2018.