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ESP Kicks Off Holiday Season with Toy Drive Benefiting Children Impacted by Incarceration

Visitors invited to donate toys and children’s books in exchange for “Buy One, Get One Free” admission to the historic site

November 5, 2020

Philadelphia, PA (November 10, 2020) – Eastern State Penitentiary celebrates this holiday season with a toy drive benefiting local children impacted by incarceration. From November 27 through December 20, anyone who donates a new, unwrapped toy or children’s book at the historic site will be granted “Buy One, Get One Free” daytime tour admission.

One in 28 American children has a parent behind bars. In Pennsylvania alone, there are approximately 81,096 children with a parent incarcerated in a Pennsylvania state prison. How can we come together as a community to support families experiencing incarceration during the holidays?

Eastern State Penitentiary partners with Ardella’s House, the Center for Returning Citizens, Institute for Community Justice, PAR-Recycle Works, and Why Not Prosper to collect gifts for children who have a currently or recently incarcerated parent. From November 27 through December 20, any Eastern State visitor who donates a new toy or children's book, in its original packaging (but please no gift wrap), will receive a "Buy One, Get One Free” admission coupon.

Donations of toys and books that support children’s imaginations, literacy skills, self-esteem, and creativity at any age are recommended. Visitors may drop off donations during public hours, Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., even if they are not planning to take a tour. Items can also be purchased online and shipped directly to the penitentiary:

ATTN: Toy Drive
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19130

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held approximately 80,000 men and women during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is currently open for tours Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; award-winning exhibits on mass incarceration, The Big Graph and Prisons Today; history exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

In recent years, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the nation’s highest award in exhibition development and design, for its exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as the Institutional Award for Special Achievement from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and the Trustee Emeritus Award for Stewardship from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Returning Citizens Tour Guide Project, which hires people who were formerly incarcerated to lead tours of the historic site, has won the EdCom Award for Innovation in Museum Education by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and has been featured internationally by such networks as the BBC and others.

For more information, the public should visit or call 215-236-3300.


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Help @EasternState spread some holiday cheer. Donate to their toy drive from 11/27 to 12/20, and you’ll get a coupon for "Buy One, Get One Free" admission for a daytime tour of the penitentiary. Details at


2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner