The Atlantic

The College That Became a Prison

Yankton College no longer exists. But it’s not fully dead either.
Source: Courtesy of Yankton College

As Yankton College’s only full-time employee, Jan Garrity knows how tough running a postsecondary institution can be. There are students to educate and degrees to confer; faculty and staff to hire and pay; a campus to maintain and a mission to uphold.

But the college Garrity runs—in the once-booming, now-sleepy Missouri River town of Yankton, South Dakota—is different than most postsecondary institutions in that it doesn’t do any of those things. That’s because the school—the Dakota Territory’s first college—closed down in December 1984, following decades of financial instability compounded by a decline in enrollment.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons the college’s property a few years after the closure, and the onetime campus—with its and , its bearing the names of and , and a that once served imported-oyster dinners—has housed a federal prison ever since. Khaki-uniformed inmates barricaded from the outside world and lecture halls and dorms

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