The Missouri State Penitentiary was established in 1833 via a bill passed by the state legislature, and the first prisoner was incarcerated in 1835. Inmates constructed the main prison building from rock quarried at the site in 1836. The penitentiary closed on September 15, 2004, and plans are in place to redevelop the site into offices for state agencies and private enterprises.
The Missouri State Penitentiary was once considered one of the largest maximum-security penal institutions in the United States. After 550 serious assaults occurred inside the prison in the early 1960s, Time magazine called it “the bloodiest 47 acres in America” (although the walls of the penitentiary only contained 37 acres).
The penitentiary had the distinction of housing some very famous individuals:
Highlights of Missouri State Penitentiary:
• Several thousand persons take a guided tour of the vacated Missouri State Penitentiary site. It is one of the most visited tourist sites in Jefferson City.
• The book highlights the fact that during the early days of the prison several commercial enterprises operated within the prison grounds using inmate labor to produce goods which were sold to the public.
• Many residents are not familiar with the prison riot which occurred in September 1954. This book presents scenes from that terrible riot.
In Images of America: Missouri State Penitentiary, the rich history of the facility is seen through images mostly taken from the holdings of the Missouri State Archives. Arnold G. Parks retired after teaching at Lincoln University for 28 years. He holds faculty rank as professor emeritus of sociology and is the author of two other Arcadia books.
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