Menard Correctional Center, Chester, Illinois


Cairo, Illinois 275

Is it weird to describe a prison as beautiful?  The ancient walls of the Menard Correctional Center stand proudly over the Mississippi River northwest of Chester.

Cairo, Illinois 276

The warden’s office looks like a plantation house, not a prison building.

Cairo, Illinois 277

3 Responses

  1. David Fiedler

    05/05/2014, 08:35 am

    We rode our bikes through the area last Septmber and while we were stopped for lunch in Chester, one of the locals told us of a shortcut to get to the road along the river in lieu of riding on busy Illinois Route 3. Go down by the prison, he said, make a left.

    So we follow the directions to Menard State Penitentiary and find the ‘shortcut’ which sure enough, looks like a bike path. We turn in and away we go, through a big grassy field down a huge hill back toward the river.

    As we go on though, the “path” (actually a service road for the prison) takes us suddenly right into the middle of the whole complex. We’re riding alongside the fence of the main jail (where we’re close enough we said hi to the prisoners inside) and as we passed one of the towers, the guard up inside spins around as we go past. We then pass another guard leaning against a truck watching a crew of inmates cutting grass. We then exit through another gate, go out through a far parking lot and we’re gone.

    As we make our way down the river road, a van from the pen comes roaring past us, pulls up in front of us and waves us over. A guard is inside and he is somewhat irate. Asked us where we’re from and what we were doing on prison property. We should not have been on that road, he said, and that it created quite a stir inside. After giving us a stern warning, he let us go.

  2. Jerry Edward

    08/03/2014, 01:35 pm

    I was traveling around St. Genevieve a couple years ago and decided to go to Chester to see what might be picturesque. Came upon the Menard prison, and took a few photos of the grand old building. As I was leaving, a security officer came out and blocked my vehicle from leaving. He told me I could get arrested for taking photos of the prison (there wasn’t any “no photography” signs anywhere I could see). I told him I didn’t realize that. He acted enraged so I told him I would delete the photos of the prison, to which he responded, “Don’t come back.”

    • Chris Naffziger

      08/03/2014, 09:06 pm

      Interesting…I suppose we took the pictures so quickly that they didn’t have time to notice us.


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