CANON CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – For some people, going to Canon City can mean they are going to be there for a long, long time. It’s been the prison capitol of Colorado since the 1800s. But for those who know they’ll be there only a short time, making a visit to the Museum of Colorado Prisons is a must.

Many museums feature art, but the paintings at the Museum of Colorado Prisons were created behind bars.

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“People are fascinated by the prison system,” Nancy Larson with the museum told CBS4 in the spring of 2011.

It should be no surprise that the museum was once part of that system.

“(It was) the original woman’s facility built in 1935 and used till 1968,” Larson said.

Today each cell tells a story about the past. Like a tragic riot that cost the lives of eight guards and five prisoners.

(credit: CBS)

“It was a sad time in 1929.”

Other lives were taken in the name of the law.

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“We have the original gas chamber that is out in our front yard and we encourage people to go in and look at it because Colorado still has the death penalty and that was used.”

“Never seen a gas chamber before,” museum vistor Dale Ashmore told CBS4. “It’s the first time I’ve seen one.

The gas chamber (credit: CBS)

Visitors also get a close look at the hidden talents of inmates, like a chess set that was made by an inmate out of toilet paper.

“It was considered contraband and a lot of people don’t understand that he used the toilet paper for something other than what toilet paper is for,” Larson said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Museum Of Colorado Prisons

His creativity helped pass his slow time behind bars.

“In some aspects it’s kind of sad because there are some very talented and very educated people in our prison system.”

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Get information about the hours of operation at the Museum of Colorado Prisons by calling toll free (877) 269-3015, or log on to Get there by taking Highway 115 from Colorado Springs to Highway 50 at Penrose. Head west about 10 miles into Canon City. The museum is located on the west end of town.