Prison

I was browsing my photo files for windows for Thursday Lingering Look at Windows and was distracted by photos I had taken last summer. Maybe I’m starting the slow transition to wanting to go back North – as soon as the snow melts.

Eaton Rapids 113

The photos that stopped me today were of the old Jackson prison that friend Julie and I had walked around last summer. Once we moved into the walls, I remember being flooded with memories. No I didn’t spend time there – it was in use before I was born. What I remember is playing with my friend Linda.

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This old prison was closed down after the large prison was built outside of town. I have spoken to many people around the US who know about Jackson, Michigan because of Southern Michigan State Prison – once the largest walled prison in the world. With changes in policy and funding, this large prison has been broken down into several small prisons, but the complex is still a major employer in the area.

Just outside the wall of the old prison were a line of row houses known as the prison terraces that remained in use for many years. Prison personnel lived there and my friend’s father was a prison psychologist. When I was in grade school I played with Linda at her house and we were told never to go inside the prison because it was dangerous and there were rats. It scared me and I was not one to get into trouble, but oh how it intrigued me.

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I longed to see through those thick stone walls – to see the cells and dungeons. I knew I would find secrets there, about bad people and probably people who were hidden away for no good reason. There were probably even ghosts of men who died behind those walls. The walls were so tall and I knew if I snuck inside I would probably never be able to get out again and my family would be very, very sad.

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Last summer, as we walked around the open space within the walls I couldn’t shake those spooky feelings. Within my adult mind I knew suffering had taken place here, the kind that comes from the lack of freedom, from isolation from family. Eaton Rapids 099

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10 Comments »

  1. I have worked my entire career in mental hospitals and prisons. Now that we travel extensively, I visit historical abandoned prisons and mental hospitals, including the concentration camps of the third reich, Devils Island, the infamous prison in Dublin, and more. These places all carry the lingering echoes of suffering. I bet you could arrange a tour of the prison complex and would recommend it. It almost sounds like you are locked outside looking in, and would find it informative, albeit depressing to take a tour. I respect your curiosity. You have a right to know what goes on behind locked doors in your town. I wonder if there is a historical group interested in the prision’s history. I would bet there is.
    Your post was haunting and well written and well photographed.

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    • I have read a book on this prison, some time ago. At this point all that is left standing are the outside walls and some of the buildings that were used as an armory outside the walls. These buildings have been converted into apartments and small retail stores. I have toured the large prison outside of town. At one time it was a huge, entirely self-sufficient complex with large farms and factories.

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  2. Great photos made even more interesting with your recollections.
    Coincidentally, as I’m off on my travels again this evening, I’ve already written my Monday blogs for the next couple of weeks, and one of them is about a prison, too.

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  3. Such a great and interesting series, Pat. Sorry I haven’t checked out your blog lately, life gets in the way sometimes. I’ll try to stop by more often. 🙂

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