Vacant New Jersey

Essex County Penitentiary

Status: Region: Type: Gallery:
Demolished New Jersey Prison 75 Photos

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The silence was shattered by a loud smash! Startled, I froze, and listened carefully, braced to run at any moment. The sound seemed to echo through the empty jail cells and bounced off the cement walls. Then I heard it again, the sound repeated, smash smash clang clang, it was as if someone were taking a sledgehammer against the iron cell bars. I cautiously made my way to where the sound seems to be iterating from. As I walked further into the structure the sound grew increasingly louder, and had a definite pattern. I continued further to the source, unprepared for what may lay behind the next corner. However, to my relief, the source of the mysterious noise turned out to be no more than a broken exhaust fan, smashing against a rusted air vent, as a slight breeze tried to make its way in.

The feeling of uneasiness dissipated and I soon felt safe again. Sitting down on a rusted stool, I took a few minuets to take in all the surroundings. The barred windows and rows of cells decaying in time, were just as much beautiful as they were haunting. I couldn't help but to think about the people who had to spend their lives in the inhumanly small cells. Row after row, story after story of these claustrophobic cages lined the main jail housing structure. Just a small box at most, with nothing but a toilet and sink inside, it was clearly no suite. This was definitely not a place any human would want to spend a prolonged amount of time in. I gazed out at freedom from behind a caged window, and it was at that point in time that I realized how horrible prison must have been. Waking up everyday, almost being able to touch freedom, seeing the outside world obscured by iron bars could easily drive one crazy. However it was this feeling that made me want to explore the rest of the jail. The prison was huge, situated on a large campus that contained other smaller abandoned structures, many have since been raised. My foot steps echoed as I walked through the empty halls. Peeling paint from the ceiling dropped down and covered the cement floors, like the leaves cover the ground on an Autumn day. The iron bars were corroded and left rust stains bleeding down the walls, forming stagnant puddles on the ground. The decay was quite beautiful and photogenic.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the jail was the mass amount of prison records left behind. Everything, from mug shots to detailed crime descriptions, littered the ground. I spent some time reading through quite a few of these discarded articles, and crimes ranged from small robberies to murders and homicides. Why this information was left littered on the floor, I have no clue. The sun just now beginning to set, cast shadows on the brick facade structure, I now made my exit, back into freedom.