Lorton Prison

March 22, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

A little more than four years ago a friend and I had the opportunity to visit the deserted Lorton Prison. Officially known as the "Lorton Reformatory" the property had been turned over to Fairfax County in the 1990s. At one time, the Reformatory was over 3,500 acres with dairies, farmlands, workhouses and, of course, the prisons. I moved to Virginia in the 1980s and used to drive by part of the facility a couple of times a week. The places you could see from the road were scary, tall barbed wire fences topped with concertina wire with walled blockhouses and "dormitories." The place had become a horror filled facility where murders and rapes were common if not everyday occurrences. Overcrowding was just a fact of life. Most prisoners were black. Once in a while you'd hear loud sirens with their modulated warnings of escaped convicts. This is the place where the suffragettes were held and tortured more than a hundred years ago. 

I think what I could see from the road was just the youth facility, the women's facility, and the low risk men's facility. What you couldn't see was the high risk risk and the maximum security facilities. Fairfax County was kind enough to give the two of us a tour of the place in December 2020. We went through the cell blocks which were being converted into apartments. Then we went into the walled maximum security facility. This is where the prisoners considered the most dangerous were housed, in single cells with little comfort and little freedom.  Now, well now the maximum security is becoming a shopping area with groceries, restaurants, and shops. Converted cells and homes on the grounds are upscale. Change.

The images in the slideshow are (1) the abandoned Warden's House; (2) looking down the wall from a guard tower, the maximum security yard is on the left; (3) cell block door control panel where the doors could be remotely locked and unlocked; (4) Looking down the second story of the cell block, there was no air conditioning, the fans on the wall were the only "cooling;" (5) Entryway into the cell block from the guards' secure area. Prisoner art, a tiger, was painted on the wall just prior to the entryway; (6) the area just outside the cell block where the guards could "relax" if such a thing was possible in this place.



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