Menard Correctional Center

The Menard Correctional Center is a maximum-security prison for male inmates located in Chester, Illinois, and it is also the parent institution for Menard Medium Security Unit and Menard Reception and Classification Center. Menard is the state’s largest maximum security adult male facility. 

Menard Correctional Center's average prisoner age is 34 years old, and each inmate's average annual cost totals $19,190.00.

This facility opened in 1878 (that is not a typo, it really is that old) and the operational capacity is 3,881, with a current population of 1,777 in the maximum-level facility, 362 in the medium security unit, and 74 in the Reception & Classification Center. It is the second oldest operating prison in Illinois, and the state’s largest prison, by a large margin.

The mission of Menard Correctional Center is to confine adult male offenders in a safe, secure, and humane manner; preserve and promote individual rights and responsibilities; and in turn, ensure ultimate protection of society. Inherent within this purpose is the offering of program activities for inmates housed within the institution. Inmates are afforded the opportunity to explore and participate in programs designated to assist them toward a successful reintegration into society. It is essential that these functions be conducted within the realities of the security needs of a maximum-security correctional center.

Menard Correctional Center was built on the banks of the Mississippi River and the facility changes in elevation over 200 feet and includes more than 2,600 acres with 41 acres enclosed by perimeter. The facility is comprised of 155 buildings totaling 1,294,000 square feet. 

The grounds are composed of six housing units. The South Lowers Housing Unit and the South Uppers Housing Unit house inmates with moderate aggression levels and those who currently have job assignments. The North I Cell House contains the Protective Custody Unit, the Step-Down Unit, and General Population. 

The North II Cell House contains inmates in disciplinary segregation, administrative detention, and the general population. The East Cell House is heavily monitored. Inmates assigned here are classified as either Level E, High, or Moderate escape risk. The West Cell House holds inmates that are either high or moderate escape risk and are classified as High Aggressive Inmates.

History of Menard Correctional Center

Prior to 1970, this facility was known as the Southern Illinois Penitentiary, and it once housed Illinois’ death row. However, in 2003, then-Governor, George Ryan granted clemency to all Illinois death row inmates and closed the “Condemned Unit.”

All the original buildings were constructed by prison labor in the mid-1800s. The original North and South Cell Houses each contained 400 cells on four tiers. Inmates lived two to a cell, and none of these cells had plumbing. Instead, the inmates used buckets.

The exterior includes columns and an awning portraying skeleton keys and a scale of justice. The entranceway has two stone lions. 

Notable inmates at Menard Correctional Center include:

  • John Wayne Gacy, notorious serial killer. Sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 33 boys and young men.
  • Drew Peterson, former police sergeant, sentenced to 38 years for the murder of his 3rd wife, Kathleen Savio.

In the 1993 movie The Fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble (played by Harrison Ford) is sent to Menard to await execution, but escapes following a bus-train collision en route.

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Visiting Hours and Rules

General Population Contact Visits

General Population visiting hours at Menard Correctional Center are on Sunday through Friday from 8:00 a.m.ー3:30 p.m. Sign in time is from 8:00 a.m.ー2:00 p.m.

On Saturday, visiting hours are between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sign in time is from 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. No visits are processed on Saturdays from 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. for shift change.

Visits may last as long as time and room allows, not to exceed four hours. Visitors who travel a great distance to visit an offender may request an extended visit Monday through Thursday (no weekends or holidays). The Duty Warden or Shift Supervisor will consider extended visits on a case-by-case basis on the date of the visit.

Contact Visits:  Offenders not under visit restriction are allowed seven visits per month.  Three adult visitors may visit simultaneously. This number includes children three years and older. If a child is under the age of three and can be held on an adult visitor’s lap, they will not be counted as one of the three visitors.

Diagnostic orientation status offenders (offenders in reception center status) are not permitted visits with the exception of legal visits.

Segregation/Administrative Detention Non-Contact Visits 

Non-Contact Visits:  Level "E" offenders are allowed five visits per month. Visits are a maximum of 2 hours and take place daily between 8:00 a.m.ー2:00 p.m. Visitors must be signed in by 12:00p.m.  Visits are a maximum of one hour.

Segregation offenders may only visit once per day.  

General visiting guidelines

All visitors must be on the offender’s approved visitation list in order to be granted a visit.  Offenders are responsible for arranging their visits and notifying their visitors of their visiting status.  

To check if you are on the offender’s visitor list, you should write a letter to the offender to inquire.  IDOC staff cannot tell you whether or not you are on an offender’s visitation list if you call the facility.  

On the first visit to a correctional facility, adult visitors (age 18 and older)will be required to complete a Prospective Visitor's Interview (PVI) form, called a DOC 0148. This PVI form can be completed and brought in on the first visit.

Visitation is encouraged to help offenders maintain ties with family, friends, and others in the community.  

Visitors must submit to a body search by officers at the Visitor Center.  Visitors who are intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not be permitted entry.

Upon entering the Visiting Room, the Visiting Room Officer will assign a table for seating during the visit.  No moves will be permitted once seated unless approved by security staff. Visits are subject to monitoring and recording at any time by departmental staff.

Visitors are expected to be courteous and cooperative with IDOC staff.  Visitors are expected to comply with staff directives and keep the noise down in respect for other visitors and staff.

Visitor Property Policy

Visitors are not allowed to bring electronic devices such as cell phones or pagers, food, drink, smoking materials, currency, packages, purses, bags, sacks, books, magazines, sunglasses, or personal keys into the Visiting Room.   

Visitors may place personal items in small lockers available in the Visiting Center for 25 cents.  The locker key may be carried into the facility after the visitor secures personal responsibility for these items.  The facility will not assume responsibility for these items.

No baby food, except two plastic baby milk bottles are to be taken into the Visiting Room.  Baby items may consist of one baby blanket and two diapers.

Required Identification

All adult visitors will be required to produce photo identification (ID) and verification of his or her date of birth.  Be sure to bring two forms of identification with you; one should be a current state issued photo ID.

Dress Code

All visitors must be dressed appropriately for a prison environment or the visit will not be permitted.  Clothing must be in good taste and not advertise or suggest any items in such a manner to signify a Security Threat Group or other illegal activity.  Visitors should not wear clothing that is sexually explicit, offensive, or degrading. All visitors must wear underwear and female visitors must wear a bra.  Visitors should not wear clothing which reveals the buttocks or breasts.

Examples of inappropriate dress for visitors are: short shirts or dresses, wrap around skirts, see through clothing, see-through or low-cut blouses, tube tops, halter tops, tank tops, swim suits or swim suit tops, short shorts, clothing with “cutouts” or leggings.  Dresses or skirts should extend to the knees.


Bringing contraband into an Illinois DOC facility is a criminal offense as specified in the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961.

"Contraband" means items which are prohibited by criminal law, departmental or facility rules or posted notices.  They are items which an offender has no authority to possess; property which is in excess of that which is authorized by the facility.

All persons, vehicles and items brought onto State property are subject to search. Failure to  submit to a search will result in denial, suspension, or restriction of visiting privileges. 

Information about Vending Machines

The visiting rooms at the facilities offer a variety of products for purchase. Outside vendors own and operate the machines and will differ from facility to facility.

Vending machine items may only be purchased using a debit card.  Visitors may purchase a debit card at the facility, normally at the gatehouse. The price of the debit card will vary by facility depending upon the vendor providing the service..

There are no refunds for unused money remaining on the card for any reason other than a defective card, so only put enough on the card for the single visit. Cards are only good at the facility where purchased, if the offender transfers, a new card at the current facility will need to be used.

Any vending items purchased must be consumed during the visit and may not be carried out of the visiting room.

Video Visits

The Illinois DOC has partnered with Global Tel*Link (GTL) to provide video visitation services for the Menard Correctional Center.

All potential visitors must register with GTL. Registration process will include completing a Prospective Visitor Interview Form; all visitors must fully complete this form with GTL even if they have completed this form at a facility, any omissions of required information on the form may result in your registration not being accepted causing unnecessary delays. Adults are encouraged to register themselves first, and then add their minor children or guardians to the system.

All visitors must be on the offender’s approved visitation list in order to be granted a visit. Video Visitation Hours are as follows:

General Division
Sunday through Friday 8am - 4 pm
Saturday 8am - 5pm

Video Visitation Hours – Medium Security Unit
Sunday through Saturday 8am - 6pm

All video visits will be scheduled through the GTL website; do not call the facility to schedule a video visit. The visitor should check before scheduling the video visit of dates and times that are available for the offender. The facility cannot tell a potential visitor if a date or time will work with an offender’s daily schedule. The facility will inform the offender of the pending visit and arrange for the offender to be present.

In order to accommodate all offenders at the Menard Correctional Center:

  • An offender may only receive one video visit per day.
  • No more than three approved visitors per video visit for offenders confined in general population or protective custody status.
  • An offender may receive only two video visits per week, this is counted against allotted visits.
  • Visitors may only schedule one video visit per day.
  • All video visits must be scheduled at least seven days in advance.
  • Visits may be scheduled up to 30 days in advance.
  • Only scheduled visitors may appear in the video visit monitor.
  • One visitor on screen at a time, excluding children who need assistance sitting for the visit.

Video Visitation is a privilege and is only available to offenders in general population or in the health care unit. Offenders housed in Segregation, in orientation, or temporarily housed at the facility will not be permitted video visitation. If an offender receives discipline between the time a visit is confirmed and the time of the visit, the visit may be cancelled; the visitor will receive an email of the cancellation. If the facility goes on lock down prior to a scheduled video visit, the visitor will receive an email. 

All visits are subject to monitoring and recording.

All video visits are monitored live and recorded, any violation of visitation rules, inappropriate conduct, or language may be subject to immediate termination of the video visit with or without warning. 

Your use of video visitation and acceptance of the rules is consent to have both audio and video recorded of the video visit. Attorney/Client privileges do not apply to video visitation, ALL visits are recorded. Dress Code policy below applies to video visitation and the termination of Visit/Loss of Visiting Privileges also applies to video visitation.

Physical Address

Menard Correctional Center
711 Kaskaskia Street
Menard, IL 62259

Driving Directions:

General Phone Number

​(618) 826-5071

Inmate Mailing Address(es)

Inmate Name and DOC Number
Menard Correctional Center
P.O. Box 1000
Menard, IL 62259 

How to Call an Inmate

You can’t call an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center. But, inmates do have access to a phone during assigned times and can make outgoing calls. For complete details on how to call an inmate in Illinois, please click here.

How to Send Money

Inmates may receive money via GTL (ConnectNetwork), JPAY, Western Union, or money order.

(A money order must be sent directly to the lockbox, NOT to the facility; see information below regarding money orders.)

Funds up to $5,000 may be sent to inmates via the following methods, except MoneyGram, who has a maximum limit of $3,000.

For all electronic transfer of funds, the inmate IDOC number and incarcerated last name must be used. Funds sent via GTL, JPAY and Western Union are anticipated to be applied to the inmate's account within 24-48 business hours.  

Funds sent via Money Gram are anticipated to be applied to the inmate's account within 72 to 96 business hours.  

Money Orders

Inmates may receive money orders not to exceed $999.99. The money orders must be sent with the lockbox deposit slip and must be complete with the inmate name, IDOC inmate number, sender’s name and address.

Deposit slips can be obtained at The money orders should be sent with a deposit slip, be made payable to JPay, and sent to the following address:

PO Box 260250
Hollywood, FL 33026

​Programs For ​Inmates

  • Academic

ABE (Adult Basic Education)
GED (General Education Development)
Special Education Services
Job Preparedness and Correspondence Classes

  • Vocational

Construction Trades

  • Industries

Meat Processing
Janitorial and Cleaning Supplies
Knit and Sewing
Waste Removal and Recycling

  • Volunteer Services


  • Other

Anger Management
Community Work Crews
Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program
Leisure Time Activity
Life Skills
Sex Offender Program
Substance Abuse
Health Care Services

Pictures of Menard Correctional Center

Careers at Menard Correctional Center

If you are interested in a career with the Illinois Department of Corrections at the Menard Correctional Center, click here.