When this prison opened in 1836, the Battle of the Alamo was going on in Texas. Missouri's prison was 100 years old when Alcatraz started housing federal prisoners. In 1967, the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) was named the “bloodiest 47 acres in America” by Time magazine. Before it closed in 2004, MSP was the oldest continually operating penitentiary west of the Mississippi River.
The Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) was decommissioned in 2004. It is open (seasonally) for public tours, operated by the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). Tour guides are former corrections officers, guards and wardens who worked within the walls of MSP. Prison-related gifts and souvenirs are available for purchase.
The tours showcase the history of MSP and the early penal eras in the U.S. Tours may include: the control center; the upper yard; cellblocks in housing units A (the oldest remaining cellblock on the grounds; built in 1868) and other housing units; the dungeon cells (where inmates often went mad); the industry area; the exercise yard; and the gas chamber (where 40 inmates, men and women, were executed).
Visit cells of famous inmates such as heavyweight champion Sonny Liston and James Earl Ray (who escaped in 1967 and went on to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968).
The Missouri State Penitentiary is an incredibly historical site. Because of the nature and subject of the tours, no children younger than 10 are permitted. Photographs are allowed, but no video may be taken. No smoking. No food allowed. Because of the age of the facility, these tours are not wheelchair accessible. All attendees must sign a waiver of liability. Persons younger than 18 must have guardian’s signature on the waiver.
This CVB reserves the right to refuse admission to anyone. You may experience low visibility, damp or wet conditions, uneven ground and stairs. You should not enter if you suffer from asthma, heart conditions, are prone to seizures, have physical ailments or any type of condition that prohibits you from walking or standing. Do not enter this attraction if you are intoxicated, wearing any form of cast, medical brace, are using crutches or a wheelchair, or have any type of physical limitation.
Reservations are required for all tours. Every person on the tour must have a reservation. You may visit the website and call the CVB for details, schedules and reservations. Extended and paranormal (ghost) tours are offered. Special and group tours may be arranged.