Over its 150 year history, the Nevada State Prison has been home to some of the state’s most notorious criminals as well as some of the states more unusual events. Fossilized footprints of a “giant race of man” known as Homo Nevadensis were found buried deep within the prison quarry. As the sole designated facility for executions in the state, in 1924 the prison garnered national and international attention when it carried out the first death sentence by gas chamber in the United States.
Nevada State Prison was in continuous operation since its establishment in 1862 through 2011. The first Territorial Legislature of Nevada created the Board of State Prison Commissioners, who authorized leasing and purchasing the Warm Springs Hotel property in Carson City. Fires in 1867 and 1870 resulted in the total loss of all buildings and prison records.
Prisoners quarried stone to rebuild the prison. Ultimately quarried rock from the site made a lasting impact on the face of Carson City. Numerous public buildings including the capitol, as well as many homes, were built from stone extracted from the prison. In addition to the rock quarry, during the 19th century funds to support the prison came from inmates making and selling shoes. After 1928, automobile license plate production became a primary income source.
The long and interesting history of the prison is clearly reflected in the Biennial Reports made by the Warden to the Legislature. Names of prisoners admitted, released, and pardoned are included in many of the reports.
Biennial Reports from the State Police are also included in this collection. After the disbanding of the National Guard in 1907, the Nevada State Police was created in 1908 to provide a state level law enforcement presence in response to labor strikes in the mining communities. The Superintendent of State Police became ex Officio Warden for the Nevada State Prison from 1925 to 1942 and the Biennial Reports for both positions were combined after 1925.
The State Archives has custody of the records of inmates twenty-five years after release from the prison system. An index of Inmate Files available through the Nevada State Archives is available as a PDF at http://nsla.nv.gov/Corrections/