As Tennessee grew into a modern state, it found itself increasingly beset by crime. In 1831, the legislature approved the construction of the first penitentiary. The pen world was violent and dark, with several major riots, fires, and escape attempts throughout the years. However, the prison also gave birth to a culture of creativity born from despair, with entertainment shows often featuring the biggest names in country music sharing the stage with inmate bands. The best-known pen, “the Castle,” has become a familiar icon to filmgoers, being used in productions like The Last Castle and The Green Mile. Today, the building sits abandoned, facing an uncertain future.
About the Author
Yoshie Lewis has authored two previous publications with Arcadia, Then and Now: Lorton and Images of America: Muscle Shoals. She has a BA in art history from the University of California and a MA in producing film and video from the American University. She enjoys using these in her career as a producer and writer. Brian Allison is Nashville born and raised and has worked in the public history field for many years, most recently as the curator of Travellers Rest Plantation. He is a museum design consultant, a graphic artist, and a writer.
Table of Contents
1 Uncertain Beginnings: Early Tennessee 9
2 Growing Pains: Into a Modern Era? 23
3 Institutionalized Labor: Postwar Struggles 41
4 Over the Wall: Conflicts and Escapes 59
5 Inside Looking Out: Life Inside 75
6 Faces in the Shadows: Serving Time 91
7 Walking the Line: Staff and Support 103
8 Unlikely Celebrity: The Pen and Pop Culture 117