Great Lakes and Upper South in the News: "Jackson museums try to lure tourists behind bars" from the Detroit News
Jackson —This prison town never liked being called a prison town.
But, in the last few years, it stopped hiding its vast connections with correctional facilities. Former prisons have even become draws for a budding tourism industry.
Still, the relationship remains complicated. Take the Cell Block 7 Museum, which is a museum in, of all places, a prison — the former State Prison of Southern Michigan.
Judy Krasnow, who overcame local resistance in starting a prison tourism business, had taken tour groups to Cell Block 7 before it was turned into a museum in 2014. The state Department of Corrections, which owns Cell Block 7, declined to renew its contract with her.
What’s more: The DOC had done so at the behest of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and Experience Jackson tourism bureau, agencies that Krasnow said are supposed to work for local companies like hers.
She said she had built up a successful business only to have it whisked away. Her tours plummeted. She eventually reached a financial deal with the Ella Sharp Museum, which runs the prison museum for the MDOC, that allowed Krasnow to resume offering tours and keep some of the profits.
Krasnow’s company, Historic Prison Tours, is slowly rebuilding. But, two years later, the issue still rankles.
“The museum wouldn’t exist if not for me,” she said. “It was a nasty, nasty horrible moment in my life.”
Continued on website.