Helping inmates improve their lives and find a better path forward is why Gary Jobe stayed with the Missouri Department of Corrections for more than 32 years. 

A few years after graduating from Lincoln University with a degree in psychology, Gary took a temporary position in the license tag plant located inside the Missouri State Penitentiary. 

“I had no intention of working in a prison,” Gary says. “That was not my highest aspiration. I needed a job and the money and hadn’t got into any kind of career yet. But the longer I was there, the more I liked it. It fit me.” 

Within a couple of weeks into his job, during the night shift, Gary faced one of the most harrowing experiences of his career when all the lights went out in the facility. 

“It just went black,” Gary says. “Nobody knew what was happening. Was it just a blackout? Or had someone sabotaged the electrical system?” 

Luckily, Gary and the other five supervisors working that night had flashlights on them and made it to an office, locking themselves in and fearing the worst. 

“But we never heard a word,” Gary says. 

After about 15 minutes, the lights came back on, and Gary and his co-workers tentatively returned to the factory to find all 200-plus inmates lined up around the interior perimeter, their backs against the wall to protect themselves. 

“We realized it was just a power outage, just an innocent thing, not a setup,” Gary says. “But the inmates didn’t know what was going on either, and they were just as leery as we were. It was kind of hair-raising at the time, but it ended up turning out well.” 

After his temporary factory job ended, Gary accepted a position as a case worker and counselor at the prison, helping inmates to overcome problems and focus on rehabilitation. 


Want to hear more of this story? Head to Jefferson City Magazine to read more, and don't forget to book a tour of the Missouri State Penitentiary!

Missouri State Penitentiary

Decommissioned in 2004, the Missouri State Penitentiary was the oldest continually operating prison west of the Mississippi. The prison was 100 years old when Alcatraz began taking inmates…