Experience Jackson

141 S. Jackson St., Jackson, MI 49201

Jackson's Prison History: Life Behind Bars

If you’ve always wondered what it was like behind bars and don’t want to taint your record to find out– plan a visit to Jackson.

Jackson, Michigan embraces its prison history as the home to Michigan’s First State Prison, The Original Jackson Historic Prison Tours, and Cell Block 7 Prison Museum. Infamous inmates from Kevorkian to notorious Purple Gang members have passed through these walls. Jackson offers a unique opportunity for tourists to hear the stories of Jackson's most notorious criminals, riots, and prison escapes. 

Relive Jackson's Prison History

Penitentiary tours discuss the 100+ year history of both individual prisoners themselves, the practices of Michigan’s correctional system, and the penal eras in the U.S.

In 1882, Michigan’s First State Prison (1838-1934) was the largest walled prison in the world. Within its walls, the factories and surrounding farms, manned by cheap inmate labor, turned Jackson into one of the leading industrial cities in the nation. The very first building housed 35 prisoners and expanded to 2,000 inmates in a different building a few miles north.  The infamous first building was a wooden fort that closed in part due to an escape by ten inmates who were members of The Jackson Robber Gang.

These days, the only things it sees are much better behaved visitors. As today, Michigan first state prison is known as Armory Arts Village. The historic site is considered an artists’ resident community and was listed on MSN in the top ten most unique places in the world in which to live. You can hear more stories and wander the historic grounds on the Original Jackson Historic Prison Tour.

SPEND SOME TIME ON THE INSIDE

After you finish your tour of the historic prison, visit our active one and have a ‘Closed Cell’ experience. Cell Block 7 is a prison museum designed to give attendees both the history and current state of corrections in Michigan. The prison museum is located adjacent to an operating prison complex working cell-blocks on the grounds of the active Southern Michigan Correctional Facility and held prisoners until 2007.

Built on 3,469 acres with an endowed area of 57.6 acres, it paid claim to the world’s largest walled prison in 1943. Get a unique perspective from the other side of its 33.9 foot walls and walk along the massive galleries. 

The Original Jackson Historic Prison Tours

Cell Block 7 Prison Museum

Make it a Jackson history weekend! Book a Jackson Hotel and visit other Historic Sites in Jackson.

The Original Jackson Historic Prison Tours

(517) 817-8960
Website | Facebook
100 Armory Court
Jackson, MI 49202

The Original Jackson Historic Prison Tours On the Original Jackson Historic Prison tour, enjoy lively, interactive stories of inmates past and present, prison lore and more. Walk inside the massive walls as bygone prisoners, guards, and... » More Information

Contact
Judy Gail Krasnow
Hours

RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED FOR ALL TOURS.

Call 517-817-8960 or email to make a reservation and inquiry about combination tours.

  • The Original Jackson Historic Prison Tours

On the Original Jackson Historic Prison tour, enjoy lively, interactive stories of inmates past and present, prison lore and more. Walk inside the massive walls as bygone prisoners, guards, and wardens come alive with tales of corruption, mayhem, punishments and relief.

THE FIRST DEGREE is the full tour. It lasts approximately 4-5 hours with lunch. Jackson Journeys is flexible and can work time-wise with your schedule.

THE SECOND DEGREE is a tour for those with time constrictions. Groups can tour through Michigan’s First State Prison only. This tour does not include lunch. It lasts approximately 2.5 hours.

COMBINATION TOURS

Jackson Journeys LLC is happy to arrange an itinerary for you both in Jackson and en route to and from Jackson. Jackson Journeys offers combination tours such as:

FROM PRISON TO PARADISE

After the Prison tour, you drive ten minutes to a Jackson gem -- St. Demetrius Orthodox Church, with its utterly exquisite iconography, wood carving, delightful tour by Father Dusan, topped with “divine” homemade Baklava and coffee. This makes a perfect “all-day” journey to Jackson.

YOU MAY ALSO STAY OVERNIGHT

After this full- day tour, go to your hotel, eat dinner at a local Jackson Restaurant, and let your dessert be a concert of your choice at the Jackson Symphony Orchestra Hall, where you can choose from 12 small musical ensembles including Jazz, Chamber Music, Country-Western, Eastern European (Klezmer), and several more.

THE NEXT DAY JACKSON JOURNEYS WILL BOOK OTHER VENUES IN JACKSON, such as a tour of Michigan International Speedway, Dahlem Nature Conservancy, Ye Ole Carriage Shop, Sparks Park & The Cascades musical waterfalls, and more. As you travel onward – east, west, south or north, Jackson Journeys can arrange your itinerary.

RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED FOR ALL TOURS. Check out HistoricPrisonTours.com for further information about price, menu, FAQ’s and to read the outstanding testimonials about the tour, created by founder/director Judy Gail Krasnow and her company, Jackson Journeys LLC.

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Armory Arts Village & Michigan’s First State Prison

(517) 784-2220
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100 Armory Court
Jackson, MI 49201

Armory Arts Village & Michigan’s First State Prison The Armory Arts Village is a one-of-a-kind, creatively focused, mixed use neighborhood.  An affordable space designed to meet both the living & workspace needs of emerging artists, musicians, designers,... » More Information

Hours

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Saturdays and additional times by appointment only.

Artst Hours:
2nd Sundays 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm

  • Armory Arts Village & Michigan’s First State Prison

The Armory Arts Village is a one-of-a-kind, creatively focused, mixed use neighborhood.  An affordable space designed to meet both the living & workspace needs of emerging artists, musicians, designers, craftsmen, and other creative people. Armory Arts Village is listed on MSN in the top ten most unique buildings worldwide in which to live. The building is a private residence, an artist community and a nationally recognized historic site. 

This was the original site of Michigan's First State Prison, approved by the legislature in 1838. A temporary wooden prison, enclosed by a fence of tamarack poles, was built on sixty acres donated for that purpose here. In 1839 the first 35 prisoners were received. A permanent prison was built three years later.

Beginning in the 1880's under Warden H. F. Hatch a greater emphasis was placed on the education and rehabilitation of prisoners. After 1934 the inmates were housed in the new prison north of Jackson. During the Industrial Revolution, Michigan's First State Prison was important to the development of Jackson by providing cheap labor in our factories. At its height, the enclosed area of the old prison was about 20 acres and there were over 2,000 inmates, making it the World's Largest Walled Prison in it's heyday.

Nearby restaurants include Shlenker's Sandwich Shop, Chilango's Mexican Grill and Anna's Gifts & Porch Cafe.

Click here for the Original Jackson Historic Prison Tour and facility rental inquires or call Judy Gail Krasnow at (517) 795-2112 or email.  

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Cell Block 7 Prison Museum

(517) 787-2320
Website | Facebook
3855 Cooper St.
Jackson, MI 49201

Cell Block 7 Prison Museum Visit the museum dedicated to the history and process of the Michigan Department of Corrections at this unique site located within an active working prison system.  Cell Block 7 is... » More Information

Hours

Winter Hours

Friday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Monday-Thursday open to groups by appointment. 

  • Cell Block 7 Prison Museum

Visit the museum dedicated to the history and process of the Michigan Department of Corrections at this unique site located within an active working prison system.  Cell Block 7 is an active representation of current life as an incarcerated inmate at what was once the largest walled-prison in the world.  Located adjacent to working cell-blocks on the grounds of the active Southern Regional Prison, Cell Block 7 is designed to give attendees both the history and current state of corrections in Michigan. Prisoners were housed in this building until 2007. 

The museum is independently operated by the Ella Sharp Museum, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The Ella Sharp Museum leases the space from the Michigan Department of Corrections. All museum admission proceeds go directly to the Ella Sharp Museum. Admission can be combined with a ticket to the Ella Sharp Museum, also located in Jackson.

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