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Showing posts with label Fairfax County. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fairfax County. Show all posts

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lorton Maximum Security Penitentiary "The Wall"-- Silent and Ominous in Black & White

In 1910, the U.S. Government began purchasing 3500 acres of prime real estate on the Occoquan River in Virginia, to house what would become workhouse, reformatory and penitentiary buildings of the DC Prison at Lorton. The site was in use over a 92-year until all inmates were eventually moved into the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 

Nothing like a Keep Out sign to make me want to go in!!!!

Between 1931 and 1938, inmates constructed a 10-acre walled penitentiary with cellblocks using bricks made in kilns along the Occoquan. This was a maximum security facility and housed the most hardened criminals.
One of the few remaining indicators of the railroad line used to transport inmates to and from the prison.  A guard tower is just visible in the background.

The prison housed prisoners from Washington DC- often poor inner-city blacks from DC's crime ridden neighborhoods.

The workhouse and reformatory were supposed to “rehabilitate and reform prisoners through fresh air, good food and honest work.” This is a bench they used while enjoying their "fresh air."

All around are reminders that the facility is slowly deteriorating. 

During the Cold War, the property hosted a Nike Missile Site as part of the US Air Defense system.

Rear gate leading into the facility.

St. Paul's Chapel, built by inmates, opened in 1961 at the reformatory. 

The Armory.

Dormitory housing.

The 'Lorton Technical Corrections Act' which was passed by Congress in October 1998, signaled the end of operations of the Lorton site as a prison. The act required the county to develop a plan to use the land for open space, parkland and recreational space prior to the county acquiring the property. The MOU below details this:

This tower watched over the rec yard of the reformatory.
Tower overlooking "The Wall" as the Maximum Facility was known. The reformatory is to the left as the two facilities are adjacent to each other.  The workhouse is a ways away. 

Looking through The Wall on to the rec yard of the penitentiary.
Penitentiary grounds. 
Besides vehicle gates and sallyport type entrances, this was the only break in The Wall that I noted.  Interestingly, maximum security inmates could stand right on the other side of this gate and be inches from complete freedom as there are no other security controls should this gate be defeated. 

For a short shapshot of what life was like inside Lorton Prison, watch this interview of a former worker:

By 1995 the Lorton Complex housed at least 7300 inmates, which was 54% above capacity. The District of Columbia lacked the funds needed to construct housing for the growing population and to maintain adequate staffing level.  The US Government assumed overall financial and administrative control of the prison system via a trusteeship arrangement.

After legislation passed to close the facilities, the DC Department of Corrections began moving inmates to the BOP and private facilities. By late 2001, the last inmates were transferred out and the facilities were shuttered.