Explore the prison mecca that blazed the way for the correctional system we have today.
In 1839, a makeshift wooden fort with room for just 35 inmates became Michigan’s first state prison. By the following year it was nearly triple the capacity, which enabled 10 inmates to escape, terrorizing the city of Jackson for years. This compelled the state to replace the wooden walls with the solid brick walls you still see today. By 1882, this site housed over 2,000 prisoners, making Jackson home to the largest walled prison in the world for the first time!
As the need for an even larger facility became evident, plans were put in motion to build a new prison three miles away. After ten years of construction, the State Prison of Southern Michigan opened in 1934. With the ability to hold nearly 6,000 inmates, it made Jackson the home of the largest walled prison in the world for the second time!
With over a century of prison history comes notorious criminals, incredible stories of escape, and more tales of daily life than you can image! Whether you have a small group or large bus, exploring Jackson, Michigan’s historic prison sites are a must – its unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else!
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Michigan’s First State Prison
Go behind the 25-foot-high brick walls to learn the tales of crime, corruption, and escape from Michigan’s original state prison. On your tour you will be able to go inside the huge 18th century building that once housed the prison cells. After the new prison was built, the building was used as an Armory.
Today, it is known as the Armory Arts Village, or one of the world’s most unusual apartments, depending on who you ask. The 19-acre complex is now home to the creative soul instead of the criminal mind. This is the only old prison in the world re-purposed as a residence with a focus on the arts!
Cell Block 7
Once the largest cell block within the State Prison of Southern Michigan, today, the 516-cell wing is open to visitors of a different kind. Cell Block 7 is located within an operating penitentiary! The ever-changing exhibits at Cell Block 7 will take you through the evolution of the prison and allow you to relive the most infamous escapes, see prisoner-made artifacts, and so much more.
For a taste of what modern, everyday prison life is like (without a sentence), it doesn’t get more authentic than visiting Cell Block 7: Michigan’s Prison Museum.