Future unclear for Missouri State Penitentiary after May tornado

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Part of the Missouri State Penitentiary wall along Capitol Avenue sits in rubble, as orange safety fence stands in it's place. It was knocked down by the EF-3 tornado that ravaged parts of Jefferson City in May.

"It's a huge loss to Jefferson City, we lost a lot of our historic part of Jefferson City," said Brittney Mormann, Communications Director with the Jefferson City Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

The prison, which once held over 4,900 inmates, was decommissioned in 2004 after 168 years of housing criminals.

Since then, it's been a place where visitors and tourists flocked..

The penitentiary offers historic, paranormal, and overnight investigation tours, but since the morning after the tornado hit on May 23rd, all tours were cancelled until August 31.

The Missouri Office of Administration says there is roof damage for four units of the penitentiary, including the dining hall and gymnasium, two units have structural damage.

Two sections of the state penitentiary's wall have collapsed, and the state is working to remove debris from a section of the main corridor which also fell.

Mormann says in 2018, 33,500 people stopped by the old lock-up, so having it damaged and closed has cost revenue.

"We have estimated so far we have lost around $225,000 in both private/public tours as well as the promotional items that we sell," Mormann says.

While the future is unclear moving forward, Mormann believes tours could resume in parts of the state penitentiary in September, saying the CVB and the state are working hard to get the historic prison up and running.

"We're very ready to be back into the Missouri State Penitentiary building, and we're going to do everything possible in our power to make that happen," Mormann said.

The tour guides who work at the state penitentiary work on a paid-volunteer basis, many of them continue to teach about the prison at the museum across the street from the penitentiary.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.