Río Piedras State Penitentiary

Río Piedras State Penitentiary
Puerto Rico Island Penitentiary
Río Piedras State Penitentiary is located in Puerto Rico
Location: in the Rio Piedras, in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Coordinates: 18°23′26″N 66°4′15″W / 18.39056°N 66.07083°W / 18.39056; -66.07083Coordinates: 18°23′26″N 66°4′15″W / 18.39056°N 66.07083°W / 18.39056; -66.07083
Built: 1933
Architect: Roldan, Francisco; Higuera, Antonio
Architectural style: Art Deco, Mission/Spanish Revival
Governing body: State
NRHP Reference#: 03000100[1]
Added to NRHP: March 07, 2003

The Río Piedras State Penitentiary, also known as Puerto Rico Island Penitentiary or Oso Blanco (or White Bear in English), was a correctional facility located in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. The institution opened in 1933 under the government of James R. Beverley, and came to substitute the Puerto Rico Prison established by Spaniards in the 19th century.

In 2004, the Government of Puerto Rico ordered the eviction of the state prison because it was deemed too expensive to readjust the structure to newer and modern facility standards.


In 1926, the Federal Government hired the architect, Francisco Roldán, to design the structure. In a new approach to rehabilitation policies, Roldán added a softer design in contrast to the harsh structures that used to be the prisons of the era.

The construction began officially in 1927 with the overview of a professional contracting agency and the use of prisoner workforce. The total cost of the project was $779,822. The prisoners were also used to cultivate the surrounding grounds in an effort to promote their contribution in the economy of the island.

The building bears a neo-moorish architectural style with touches of art deco accentuated by the main entrance to the complex. There, two female statues guard it from both sides, with a detailed arch that reads above a quote from the known Spanish feminist and sociologist, Concepción Arenal, that reads "Hate the crime and pities the criminal".

The complex featured 332 cells and 12 pavilions, a clinic, a psychiatric hall, a library, classrooms, workshops, a mess hall with capacity for 500 inmates, a kitchen and restrooms, all organized around an interior patio.

The structure also features guerites in the outer facade with bland-colored tiles to contrast its look with its austere appearance.

It was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2003.[1]


External links

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