Inside look at Jackson prison museum Cell Block 7

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JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — It’s a place no one wants to end up.

But in Jackson, people are paying to get into prison.

A section of the old Jackson prison has been turned into a museum.

And because it’s still part of an active prison campus, cameras aren’t allowed.

6 News recently got a special tour of the museum and has a look inside.

Prisoners haven’t been housed here in 10 years, but Cell Block 7 is still stirring emotions.

“They walk down a long ramp, and then sort of pop into a five story atrium, with bars on either side. They stop, they’re kind of taken aback,” said Diane Gutenkauf, Executive Director of the Ella Sharp Museum.

Run by the Ella Sharp Museum, Cell Block 7 opened as a prison museum in 2014.

“We’ve been seeing our visitation steadily build,” said Gutenkauf. “We also discovered this summer that there’s a huge pent up curiosity, if you will, in Jackson.”

Cell Block 7 is the biggest prison block in the Jackson prison complex.

Standing five stories high, it could hold 500 prisoners.

The Michigan Department of Corrections is glad the building is getting new life.

“We think this is a way in which this can be used for the better. So people stop thinking of prison and the prison community as a negative. A lot of people worked here, a lot of people lived and came here because of the prisons,” said MDOC Spokesperson Chris Gautz.

Tuesday afternoon, 6 News was part of a special media tour.

It was an opportunity for officials to talk about their goal of sharing history that goes beyond the bars.

“We’re looking to connect with people who worked here, might have been incarcerated here, had a family member who was connected, so that we can start to gather those stories and do a better job of telling them,” Gutenkauf said.

The museum realizes that seeing where people were locked up can be painful history to relive.

But they hope it’s all part of the learning experience, and invites conversation.

“People in Jackson aren’t always proud of the fact that a prison is here. So our job is to help them see the broader historical context,” Gutenkauf said. “I think it gives them a whole new appreciation for what life is like in prison, and for what it must be like to be incarcerated for a long period of time.”

If you’d like to visit the museum follow this link: http://www.cellblock7.org/

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