Prison museum in Jackson offers a "captivating" experience

Jun 27, 2014

This Saturday, a unique museum experience will open in Michigan.

“Cell Block 7” at the state prison in Jackson will officially open to the public on Saturday.    The museum is located in the old Southern Michigan Correctional Facility.   The cell block was closed in 2007.
“Cell Block 7” at the state prison in Jackson will officially open to the public on Saturday. The museum is located in the old Southern Michigan Correctional Facility. The cell block was closed in 2007.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“Cell Block 7” at the state prison in Jackson will officially open to the public.  The museum is located in the old Southern Michigan Correctional Facility. The cell block was closed in 2007.  

The museum will chronicle the history of state prisons in Jackson, which dates back to the 1830s.    

Amy Reiman is executive director of Jackson’s Ella Sharp museum, which will operate the prison museum.

She expects 10,000 to 20,000 thousand people a year will visit, though she believes interest in prison movies, like the Shawshank Redemption, and TV shows, like Orange is the New Black, will be bigger draws than the actual history of the prison.

“They’re coming here for the Hollywood version,” says Reimann. “We’ve heard a lot of people say ‘I just want to see what it looks like. Just once.’ We say there will be a lot of interesting things to see, so come back again.”

Reimans says the prisons in Jackson have an interesting history, from Detroit’s legendary Purple Gang to a daring helicopter escape in 1975. 

Reimann says security is a top priority for the new museum.  

The cell block is surrounded by units housing inmates serving time. 

Corrections officials are less concerned about inmates trying to interact with museumgoers than they are with museumgoers who may try to interact with inmates.

Reiman says visitors should remember they are visiting an actual prison and will have to follow the rules.

“(Museum visitors) are being watched when they pull into the parking lot,” says Reimann.“They are being watched very closely. They are here to come see the museum … and then to leave.”