I have haunting memories of been confined at the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) as a young teenaged kid that still haunt my dreams today. I was locked down in a tiny cramped old-fashioned jail cell caged in by bars with no windows when I should have been preparing to go to college or start a career in the military, or working a factory job like General Motors, etc. like other young men my age. Instead, I was faced with the possibility of spending the remainder of my young life inside a Missouri prison, an idea itself that gave me nightmares.
Without any physical evidence and merely witness which by all accounts were inconsistent and unbelievable, I was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole at the tender age of eighteen. Since that day the judge said guilty and sentenced me to die behind bars, my life has not been the same. It has been nearly two decades since my trial and I still find it hard to believe I was wrongfully convicted of a murder that I did not do. Being accused and convicted of anything you didn’t do would be devastating on anyone I would assume, but to be falsely accused and convicted of murder is a very hard pill to swallow.
The state did not need fingerprints, DNA evidence, a murder weapon, nor credible witnesses to convict me. The eye-witnesses accounts of the events shifted repeatedly. As the prosecutor developed her case, the witness statements changed over time. To add insult to injury, I was an inner-city poor kid out of Kansas City, Missouri during a time when the crime rate was high and the national sentiment was to be “tough on crime” and tougher on young black inner city boys accused of committing crimes.
The fact that I did not come from a wealthy family and my parents were unable to afford to hire a lawyer to represent me and investigate the case probably did not help me either. At the time of my arrest, I was reading at a second or third-grade level. I was virtually incapable of helping my Public Defender help mount a defense to the charges and simply took for granted things were going to work out since I knew I was innocent. parents were powerless to do anything. They came to visit, they answered telephone calls and they insisted I put my trust in the Lord. I was to pray and everything was going to be alright was what my mother would tell me at the end of every visit and right before we hung up each time we spoke over the prison telephone.
Our prayers were not answered and though innocent, I was sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) where the “worse of the worst” of Missouri’s prisoners were housed at the time. I was confused, defeated and afraid. I couldn’t understand how I would be placed at MSP my first time in prison. I didn’t know anything about doing time, and all I wanted to do was go home where I belonged with my family.
Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) is better know as the Old Walls the deadliest 40 Acres on this side of the Mississippi River. MSP lived up to its name. It was a death pit. When you stepped foot behind the Walls you would immediately be overwhelmed by the filth and unbearable stench of blood, feces, urine, rust and body odors mixed in from the decaying structures that had been overpopulated by men and under-maintenance by the prison staff. If there is such thing as hell on earth then it was Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP).
The prison in Jefferson City, Missouri earned its reputation from the horror stories each person that entered it suffered through. I had heard of the horror stories prior to being sent inside the Walls. Going inside was how prisoners referred to being housed at MSP. It was the Walls of doom I quickly learned as I had to battle through everything from filth to harassment by Staff and offenders. I served years inside the Walls before the prison was finally closed although the prison had been condemned by the state many years before the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) decided to close it down and transfer its prisoners about a couple of miles away down the road to the New Walls which is called Jefferson City Correctional Center (JCCC) which sits on “No More Victims Road” in Jefferson City, Missouri.
There were quite a few innocents who suffered through the Old Walls like Rodney Lincoln and George Allen, the late “exoneree” who passed not 5 years after being released from serving over 25 years on a wrongful incarceration. George was one of the older guys I knew inside the Walls. He was an Old Timer who had been sent inside back in the ’70s and had seen too much trauma, death, and decadence for one human-being to live through without losing his sanity. I hate to admit it, but George was one of the men who it was rumored had it very hard inside of the old Walls. He entered Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) back when young men were being broken left and right by the violence, rape, and death that was happening continually inside of the prison. It did not help George Allen that his wrongful conviction happened to be a rape conviction. Convicted rapist and child-molesters had it the hardest behind the Old Walls I was told. Not only did the inmates condemn them, but so did the guards and staff. The inmate rapists were bombarded from all directions. They didn’t get any peace inside. Protective Custody (PC) couldn’t even protect them from the horrors. The Walls was a place that if somebody had it out for you and wanted to get you, you were got, and everybody knew this even the prison staff. It was dangerous and scary and it was a known fact that most of the inmates had not knives but swords, and they did not hesitate to use them.
There were knives everywhere inside of the Walls some dating back to the 1920s and beyond. It was a scary place for anyone to have to live, especially a falsely accused rapist.
George loss an eye in an assault on his life behind the Walls in one of the many battles he suffered through while serving time and by the time of he was finally exonerated, he had lost all hope as well. He was broken as had been many a man who served time inside the Walls. His mind slipped and he began suffering from psychosis and schizophrenia Many of the inmates who knew George hoped the taste of freedom would help redeem his mind and spirit once he learned that he would finally be released, but sadly, exoneration did not rescue George Allen from the horrors, and though the system attempted to wipe George’s slate clean many years after he had been wrongfully convicted, it was unable to remove the scars of a stint in Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP), and of wrongful conviction that hover over the lives of innocents.
The Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) was finally closed in 2004 but the horrors of the Walls will probably last forever in the minds of its many victims including myself. For many prisoners that served time inside of the Wall, its closing was too little, too late. To many prisoners’ dismay that still experience horrors from the horrible prison, the city officials of Jefferson City, Missouri have turned the old decadent prison into a tourist attraction for a source of revenue while it relives the horrors of men who were victimized inside of its filthy Walls.
Now the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) is a Haunted House and tourist attraction where tourists go to be haunted by the ghost of dead inmates mauled down inside a violent prison suffering untimely deaths in a place where men were sent to have their lives reformed.
by Howard Frazier
Editor: Anthony Williams, Director
Missouri Prisoner Advocacy Consulting (MOPAC)
(Howard Frazier is a wrongfully convicted prisoner currently confined in the Jefferson City Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Missouri. Howard says he received ineffective representation during and leading up to his trial and his legal Team is now raising funds and consulting with attorneys to try and effect his release. You can learn more about Howard by clicking HERE)