My wife and daughter and I recently drove to Jefferson City to take a tour of the old Missouri State Penitentiary. The prison closed in 2004 (when a new one opened seven miles down river), but has a history dating back to 1836, and we were lucky enough to have as our guide Mike Groose, a former warden of that facility who knows pretty much everything that ever happened there. He told us so many great stories that I invited him to share some of them on my KTRS show, and in our extended conversation, he discussed:
- the penitentiary's role in the westward expansion of the US during frontier times;
- some of the better-known inmates, including Sonny Liston, James Earl Ray, and Pretty Boy Floyd;
- why the gas chamber had two seats side-by-side;
- what it was like in "the hole," with no electricity, no light, and no heat or air conditioning;
- the inmate riot of 1954 and how the guards reacted;
- whether he could walk through the prison yard as warden without security and get to know the inmates;
- what he thinks of movies like "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Escape From Alcatraz."