Penjara Taiping is one of the oldest prison in Malaysia. Taiping Prison, originally called The Perak Prison and better known as "Taiping Gaol", was established in 1879 and is the first and oldest modern prison complex in Malaysia. It was also the largest prison complex at the time. In 1881 Seikh warders were brought in to assist Malay warders and vocational trainers were brought in from Hong Kong to introduce useful industry in the prison. In 1882 there was an exercise to place prison inmates into categories. In 1889 a European warder was appointed.
With the establishment of the Federate Malay States, Taiping Prison became the detention centre for prisoners with long sentences from Perak, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan and Selangor. In 1923 the system of "Visiting Justices" was introduced. Prison industry had been developed and included printing works, cloth production, sewing and rattan and ironworking. In 1924 stoneworking was halted and replaced with coconut dehusking. In WWII, during the Japanese occupation (1941-1945), Taiping Prison was used as a public prison and also a Japanese prisoner-of-war detention centre. It was during this period that all records about the prison and its inmates were destroyed.