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Prison-themed gift shop to open near the old Jackson State Prison

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The city of Jackson is capitalizing on its long history as the site of a state prison.

In addition to guided prison tours, visitors can now buy prison-related items at the city’s new prison gift shop.

When the Jackson State Prison closed in 2007, it was turned into a live-work space for artists known as the Armory Arts Village. One of the women who lives there, Judy Gail Krasnow, gives guided tours of the historic prison.

She says lots of tourists asked about a gift shop, which didn’t exist. So she created one in the Art 634 building across from the old prison, and built it to look like an old prison cell. Krasnow says the Old Prison Gift Shop was "modeled after the cells at the first prison, which had brick walls, and the doors were those thick, iron bars."

Krasnow plans to sell art made by current and former prisoners through the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP).

Prison-themed jewelry, books, and postcards will also be for sale, along with black and white-striped inmate outfits for puppies. There will also be recipes written by male and female inmates in Michigan in a cookbook called The Outsiders Guide to Cooking on the Inside: Cooking Outside the Box. Like this recipe for mashed potatoes as described by Krasnow:

"Put a bag of potato chips in a bowl with a half of onion and a cup of milk, put it in the microwave (because that’s all they had to cook with was one microwave), and do that for about 6 minutes, and you get mashed potatoes!"

Krasnow hopes to get a microwave in the shop so that once in a while she'll run a special where folks come in and make some of the cookbook's recipes and eat it on-site.

The Old Prison Gift Shop opens Saturday, Apr. 14.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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