Illinois Prison Cemeteries

As some of you may know, my first job as a librarian was Director of the Library at Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois. At the time, Joliet had the dubious honor of hosting not one but two maximum security prisons. Joliet Correctional Center (where I worked) held mostly first-time offenders and men considered low risks to act out violently or try to escape. Stateville Correctional Center hosted long-term offenders who posed obvious risks for acts of violence and/or flight attempts.

Each prison had its own cemetery, where men who died in prison and whose bodies were not claimed by family could be buried. Men to be buried received a civilian suit and a wooden casket. You can search these cemeteries for a “black sheep” ancestor in Ancestry Library Edition (Ancestry LE) using this record collection:

U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current

You can search for specific individuals, or you can do a general search for burials in either cemetery:

SEARCH—CEMETERY stateville prison cemetery (Exact)

SEARCH—CEMETERY old joliet prison cemetery (Exact)

Oddly enough, this search also works for the Old Joliet Prison Cemetery:

SEARCH—KEYWORD Monkey Hill (Exact) CEMETERY prison cemetery (Exact)

A Web search did not turn up an explanation for the “Monkey Hill” nickname, but proved that the nickname has been in use for most of the term of the cemetery’s existence.

You can use Ancestry LE at Central Library or any of our branches.

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