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Closed Part Of Michigan Prison Opening As Museum

BLACKMAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Part of the former Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in the Jackson area is opening to the public on Saturday as a home for history.

The Ella Sharp Museum of Art and History partnered with the Michigan Department of Corrections to create the prison museum within the 7 Block portion of the prison that closed in 2007. A preview was held Monday, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported.

Corrections Director Dan Heyns formerly served as Jackson County sheriff and was a longtime member of the sheriff's department before taking his current job with the prison system in 2011. The opening "marks a new and honest reality for Jackson," he said.

"It marks Jackson's acceptance of its history, and it embraces it," Heyns said. "No more hiding the obvious. We are substituting a negative with a positive."

The Southern Michigan Correctional Facility had operated in some capacity since the 1930s. After it closed it was used in 2009 for filming of the Robert De Niro and Edward Norton movie "Stone." The 7 Block portion was including in the Jackson Journeys prison tours from 2011-13.

The prison museum will allow the public to wander the five-floor, 515-cell 7 block building, which will feature exhibits, artifacts, pictures and documented stories.

Mindy Bradish-Orta, head of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and Experience Jackson, said the addition of the prison museum will boost area tourism.

"This is a wonderful addition to our attractions," Bradish-Orta said. "This will really put Jackson County on the map as a tourist destination."

Admission to the museum in Blackman Township is $15 for adults, $8 for ages 5 to 12 and $10 for Ella Sharp Museum members, seniors and military personnel. Children younger than 5 are free. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

[Visit the museum website]

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