Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Look at Colorado's Oldest Prison

The Museum of Colorado Prisons occasionally makes documentaries. The latest, Territorial Prison - Stories Behind the Walls, is premiering this weekend at the Skyline Theatre in Cañon City, Colorado as part of the 74th Annual Music & Blossom Festival.
Although the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, aka “Territorial,” is the oldest prison in the Colorado DOC system (opened 1871, added to system 1876) and housed Death Row prisoners from the 1890s through the 1990s, the one-hour documentary focuses on the more recent period of the 1930s through the 1970s. An era that spans escape attempts and some notable riots.

The film was written by local author Sandy Dexter and is narrated by her husband Don, a professor of video production at the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver. A former student of professor DexterRyan Mueller, directed the film with the help of current school attendee Jeb Brant on camera.

Museum board member Elaine Greenlee raised $26,000 to fund the project. Per a recent article in the Chieftain newspaper, a chunk of that came from the estate of a local Cañon City banker:

“It was a dream of [the late] Warden Wayne K. Patterson to have a film made about Territorial to preserve its history," said Donna Murphy, museum board member. "It will be dedicated to him and to Darryl Biggerstaff, whose estate helped to fund it."

Sandy Dexter wrote the script for the documentary more than a decade ago, and also extensively interviewed Patterson before his death. But it took this long for funding to be pulled together. After this weekend's Saturday-Sunday premiere, Territorial Prison will move on to regional PBS broadcast.

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