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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Missouri State Penitentiary


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."
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Here's the website for the tours of the Missouri State Penitentiary.