As we finished up our visit to Eastern State Penitentiary, we came across just a couple of more things. But really when I think about the prison, here’s an image that comes to mind:
An old abandoned hallway – dead, empty. No life.
That’s what prison seems to be like – emptiness and decay – waiting for death to come for a visit.
In contrast, we also saw this:
It’s the outside of the chapel. We couldn’t get to the chapel – it’s off-limits. I would have loved to see inside it. But even this seemed to be fitting.
How many in our society feel jailed in and trapped – in prison in their own minds and bodies. How many desire to go into that chapel to experience and meet God, but are restricted from going in? All too often we hear a message of judgement and separation that bombards us from many angles and with great volume – many times clothing itself as a message of Christianity.
Yet, that is not what the Good News really is. Part of the Good News is release for the prisoner. Oh how we need to be released from the prisons we are in – prisons of hate and fear. Prisons of addiction. Prisons of violence. Prisons of separation and broken relationships. So many prisons.
And we’re told that the Good News releases us, yet so many continue to stay in their cells because…well, because it’s familiar and going out of the cell is scary. We aren’t in control anymore.
Yet we are called out of our cells, set free – free to follow and to serve.
Come out. It’s time to be free.
George Norman is not a household name. Nor should it be.
As we continued through our visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, we saw some plaques of notable inmates.
Here is George’s:
So why George Norman strike my interest? Simple, we live in Carlisle. His story is interesting and one that I hadn’t heard here in Carlisle. The building behind George – that’s the old courthouse. It’s still there today.
Nothing like some living history.
During out visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, we got to see some traces of an escape that had taken place there.
I don’t remember the name of the inmate who did this, although I do remember he had a neat prison name.
At any rate, this guy planned and schemed and figured out a way to break free – dig a hole.
And dig a hole is just what he did. He covered the hole in his cell so the guards wouldn’t see it. And then he dug under ground level and dug his way out. You can see the path that he took (the white line)
Needless to say, the escape didn’t last long. It’s not easy to escape prison and then be able to feed yourself.
At the Eastern State Penitentiary, we got to see the entrance way to where the synagogue was.
Yes, there was a synagogue there. In fact, the prison has created a restored version of the synagogue so we could see what it might have looked like.
Quite beautiful actually.
One of Eastern State Penitentiary’s most famous inmates was Al Capone.
And of course the prison has Capone’s cell, restored to the way it was when Capone was there. Capone wasn’t any ordinary inmate though – he had all the comforts of home with him in prison. And I highly doubt that anyone gave him any trouble for it either. We even got to hear the music that Capone would play in his cell.
Cozy, isn’t it.
At any rate, when you turn around from Capone’s cell, you see this sight:
It’s the exit where Capone was supposed to walk through when he was released after serving his time in prison. The route was changed though because of the throng of people waiting outside.
The Eastern State Penitentiary has some very unique things and unique history too.
There’s something fascinating about the abandoned chairs in the cells.
And who would have thought that the prison would have had a bocce field for the inmates? It’s right up against the outer wall.
Lastly, did you know that the prison is one of the few prisons at this time that had a child born in and raised inside the walls? Here’s the infirmary where the child was born and lived for several years.
We made it back out to a courtyard at the Eastern State Penitentiary where we were shown a specific wall.
We were told that if you look at the right spot, you can see some carvings from the inmate to fixed the wall.
Apparently being in prison didn’t stifle this inmate’s sense of humor.
As we continued our journey through the Eastern State Penitentiary, we kept finding some eerie places, ones that you just didn’t want to stay and think about what they must have been like. Take this one for example. I imagine that this what many people think going to the dentist feels like. Have a seat, the doctor will be right with you.
Or, if medical thoughts aren’t your thing, then just think about this hallway.