I spent a chilly two hours this morning touring the old Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. The prison was decommissioned in 2004, replaced by a new facility east of the city. I took a similar tour several years ago when the prison was still being used. Not sure which was more interesting. I was lucky to get in on this one, since they don’t do tours. Thanks to Jeff City Mayor John Landwehr for making it happen.
The old facility is rich in history and our guides –Charlie Brzuchalski and Mark Schreiber– shared one fascinating fact and story after another. It was the oldest prison west of the Mississippi (opened the same year the Battle of the Alamo was fought?) and, at one time, was the largest prison in the world, with 5,200 inmates. Former inmates include James Earl Ray, Pretty Boy Floyd, Sonny Liston and Stagger Lee. Plans for the old prison and grounds include redevelopment and restoration.
UPDATE: Mark Schreiber is the author of “Somewhere in time : 170 year history of Missouri Corrections.”