The Missouri State Penitentiary,
also known as "The Walls", was a prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...
in Jefferson City, Missouri
Jefferson City is the capital of the U.S. state of Missouri and the county seat of Cole County. Located in Callaway and Cole counties, it is the principal city of the Jefferson City metropolitan area, which encompasses the entirety of both counties. As of the 2010 census, the population was 43,079...
that operated from 1836-2004. It was a prison of the Missouri Department of Corrections. Before its closure it was named the Jefferson City Correctional Center
(JCCC). Before its closure it was the oldest operating penal facility west of the Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...
. It served as the State of Missouri's primary maximum security institution. The current Jefferson City Correctional Center
The Jefferson City Correctional Center is a maximum security prison in Jefferson City, Missouri operated by the Missouri Department of Corrections. It houses up to 1996 inmates, with a staff of 660...
was opened on September 15, 2004, replacing the Missouri State Penitentiary.
The Missouri State Penitentiary was constructed in the early 1830s to serve the newly admitted state of Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...
. Jefferson City had been designated the state capitol in 1822, and Governor John Miller
-Politics:* John Miller , Governor of North Dakota, 1889–1891* John Miller , Governor of Missouri, 1826–1832; U.S. Representative from Missouri, 1837–1843...
suggested that the state's main prison be constructed there, to help the city maintain its somewhat tenuous status against other towns trying to obtain the capitol for themselves. James Dunnica, a master stonemason who built the first Capitol
The Missouri State Capitol is located in the U.S. state of Missouri. Housing the Missouri General Assembly, it is located in the state capital of Jefferson City at 201 West Capitol Avenue. The domed building was designed by the New York architectural firm of Tracy and Swartwout and completed in 1917...
building in Jefferson City in 1826, was appointed to oversee construction of the new prison, and $25,000 was allotted by the legislature for expenses. The facility opened for business in March 1836, the same month as the fall of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a battle fought during the Texas Revolution.Alamo may also refer to:-Places:*Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas*Alamo, California*Alamo, Georgia*Alamo Township, Michigan*Alamo, Nevada*Alamo, New Mexico...
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...
Prisoners were employed during the 1830s in making bricks; the initial prison population consisted of one guard, one warden, fifteen prisoners, and a foreman for the brick-making operation with an assistant. Eleven of the fifteen prisoners were from St. Louis, and all were incarcerated for larceny
Larceny is a crime involving the wrongful acquisition of the personal property of another person. It was an offence under the common law of England and became an offence in jurisdictions which incorporated the common law of England into their own law. It has been abolished in England and Wales,...
except for one, who was imprisoned for stabbing a man during a drunken brawl.
In 1868 Housing Unit 4, formally known as A-Hall, was finished. The building constructed entirely of stone quarried on site was built mainly with inmate labor. Warde Horace Swift was the architect of the structure. It is still standing today, and housed inmates until the day the prison was closed. A museum was to be set up in this housing unit but has since been canceled due to a lack of funding.
Warden Donald "D.W." Wyrick was the youngest, longest tenured and last "official" Warden of the Missouri State Penitentiary, also known as "The Walls" and "The Big House." MSP was also infamously referred to as the "bloodiest 47 acres in America."
He was the only Warden to work his way up through the ranks. In less than fifteen years after beginning as a Guard, he became Warden of the Missouri State Penitentiary during the most turbulent time in its history.
Warden Wyrick was credited on many occasions for keeping the old penitentiary under control when events brought the penitentiary to a boiling point.
His extensive knowledge of prisons and extraordinary ability to communicate with convicts led to the capture of escaped convicts, contraband weapons being found and attempted escapes from happening.
Warden Wyrick was well known throughout the United States and other countries as being the most superlative Warden of any penitentiary. He was sought after by many states to oversee their penal systems.
Warden Wyrick is a legacy within the Missouri Department of Corrections.
A book titled, "Man of the Big House, Missouri State Penitentiary, A Warden's Warden" was published about Warden Wyrick.
April 19, 1919, prisoner Kate Richards O'Hare was brought to M.S.P. to serve a five year sentence for an anti-war speech she had given in Bohman, North Dakota some months earlier. Kate O'Hare's prison sentence was commuted by President Woodrow Wilson in May, 1920. Later she was given a full pardon by President Calvin Coolidge.
Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd entered M.S.P. on December 18, 1925 for a robbery.
In the fall of 1953, a young Kansas City boy was kidnapped and brutally murdered. A week later the murderers, Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Heady, were arrested. They were tried and sentenced to death for their crimes. The Federal Government had no facilities to carry out the execution, so M.S.P. was selected to carry out their sentence.
In 1954 there was a riot at M.S.P.. The Highway Patrol and National Guard troops were called in to help quell the riot. When it was all over, four inmates had been killed, 29 injured and one attempted suicide. Four corrections officers had been injured. Several buildings had been burned; and damages were estimated to be 5 million dollars. No prisoners were able to escape during the incident.
In 1956, the towers were updated, and this was the last time they were updated before the prison was closed in 2004.
James Earl Ray
James Earl Ray was an American criminal convicted of the assassination of civil rights and anti-war activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr....
was admitted to the penitentiary on March 17, 1960. On April 23, 1967, prisoner #00416 J.E. Ray escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary in a bread box that was supposed to contain loaves of bread that was being transported from M.S.P. to the Renz prison. Somewhere during the trip, Ray escaped. Ray later was convicted of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1974, Lillian Bonds became the first female Correctional Officer to work in a male correctional facility. This was also the year that the official job classification for custody staff was changed from "Guard" to "Correctional Officer".
The last execution at M.S.P. was on January 6, 1989. The inmate executed was George "Tiny" Mercer.
In 1991, the name Missouri State Penitentiary was changed to the Jefferson City Correctional Center. In 2003 it was changed back to Missouri State Penitentiary so there was no confusion between the old prison, and the new one that was being built.
In December 1999, Corrections Supervisor I (Captain) Saralyn McKenzie became the highest ranking female custody staff member. She was the only female Captain ever to work inside the Walls.
On October 22, 2003, a murder/escape attempt occurred at M.S.P. Inmate Toby Viles was murdered by two offenders that worked with him in the prison's ice plant. Inmate Shannon Phillips has pled guilty of the murder. Inmate Christopher Simms was also present in the Ice Plant during the time of the murder, but has yet to stand trial. Inmate Phillips and Simms were found 4 days later in a room that the inmates had prepared for an extended stay. The room was concealed from corrections staff until they began to punch holes in peg boards that covered the walls. The two staff members who found the concealed inmates were CSI Saralyn McKenzie and COI Chad Hovis, both members of the MSP E-Squad. The offenders were planning to wait until the closure of M.S.P. to escape. They were only off by about 11 months.
The Missouri State Penitentiary was closed on Sept. 15 2004 and the new Jefferson City Correctional Center was opened.
Most of the information is from a handout titled <"History of the Jefferson City Correctional Center"> produced somewhere around 2001. There is no author noted in the handout to credit with the information, however the handout was produced by the administration of J.C.C.C..
There is also a book called "Somewhere in Time", written by former Deputy Warden Mark Schreiber, which goes into great detail regarding MSP. Mr. Schrieber spent over 30 years working at MSP and is one of the most knowledgeable individual regarding the Missouri State Penitentiary. Although he is retired from the Department of Corrections, he currently is a tour guide for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, and frequently conducts tours of what remains of the old prison. Tours can be booked at www.missouripentours.com.
Before April 1989 the State of Missouri's male death row was located at JCCC. Death row prisoners were held in a below-ground unit and were isolated from other prisoners. Death row prisoners did not leave their special death row facility, and all services were brought into the unit. Each death row prisoner was allowed one hour of exercise per day in a fenced area next to the death row facility. MDOC said "With restrictions on movement and limited access to programs, conditions of confinement for death row inmates mirrored those found in other states" and "As with other states using prison facilities constructed before the turn of the century, conditions at JCCC were less than favorable for both death row inmates and staff." After a legal challenge, MDOC began to use an internal death row classification system with privileges awarded by behavior, changes in medical services delivery procedures, and a "privacy room" where death row prisoners could attend religious services.
The Potosi Correctional Center
Potosi Correctional Center is a Missouri Department of Corrections prison located in unincorporated Washington County, Missouri, near Potosi. The facility currently houses 800 capital punishment, maximum security and high-risk male inmates....
(PCC) opened in 1989. In April 1989 the state transferred its 70 death row
Death row signifies the place, often a section of a prison, that houses individuals awaiting execution. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution , even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists.After individuals are found...
inmates from JCCC to Potosi.