100 years older than Alcatraz, the Missouri State Penitentiary opened for tours in 2009. This facility was once described by Time Magazine as the “Bloodiest 47 acres in America” and housed infamous inmates including Sonny Liston, James Earl Ray and Pretty Boy Floyd.
The steel gate will clank behind you just like there were inmates entering the prison. The 2-hour tour will take you through the upper yard, and then take a seat in the oldest housing unit from 1868. You will hear history and interesting stories of the inmates, tour the underground dungeon cells (optional of course), gas chamber, regular cells and the women’s unit. The execution chamber is on a building by itself, surrounded by a fenced courtyard. Between the years of 1937 and 1989, 39 or 40 inmates were put to death inside the structure. All of the executions, save one, were conducted int he state’s gas chamber which you will have the opportunity to visit, if you want.
In addition to the history tour, twilight tours, specialty tours, ghost tours, ghost hunts and paranormal investigations are available.
In 1888 it was names the largest prison in the world. The facility promoted growth for Jefferson City through economy and prison labor. The riots of the 1950′s and a series of assaults int he early 1960s gained the prison a reputation as on of the country’s most violent prisons. Before being decommissioned in 2004 the prison was known as the oldest continuously operated prison west of the Mississippi River.
During 1954 the overpopulation at the prison has grown to the point that it was not unusual to find six to eight inmates confined in a single cell. That, along with the deteriorating state of the prison buildings, led to a violent uprising on September 23 or that year. The riot started in the maximum security area. When order was finally restored, four inmates were dead, three guards and over thirty prisoners were injured, and around eight buildings were either destroyed or heavily damaged by fire. This riot was over but there were two more smaller ones a month later that caused the death of one more inmate and inured 36 others.
During the 1960s there were a series of violen assaults made at the prison. It was reported that there were 550 separate accounts of serious assaults, including hundreds of stabbings that took place at the prison. Due to this the prison warden, E.V. Nash was reviewed for his administrative ability. When the report recommending removing him from his position was made Mr. Nash took his own life with a gunshot to his head.
Since the property was built in 1836, this tour is not suitable for wheelchairs, walkers or crutches.
Location: 115 Lafayette Street, Jefferson City, MO 65101