The Colorado Territorial Penitentiary was constructed in 1869 and opened in June 1871 in Cañon City. It became the Colorado State Penitentiary, which has been located in the area ever since. The prison housed its first female inmate in 1873, but by 1884 the number of incarcerated women grew to six, prompting the construction of a separate women's prison within the penitentiary grounds.
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