The Varner Unit is a high-security state prison of the Arkansas Department of Correction in Varner, Choctaw Township, unincorporated Lincoln County, Arkansas, United States. It is located along U.S. Highway 65, near Grady, and 28 miles (45 km) south of Pine Bluff. The prison can house over 1,600 prisoners, and it includes a 468-bed supermax (Super Maximum Security) facility.
The Varner Unit houses male inmates scheduled for execution in Arkansas, currently performed by lethal injection. The actual executions take place at the nearby Cummins Unit. The female death row is located at the McPherson Unit. Varner is one of the state of Arkansas's "parent unit"s for male prisoners; it serves as one of several units of initial assignment for processed male prisoners.
The Varner Unit was opened in 1987 with 300 beds, and its capacity was soon increased to 700 beds. Further construction has brought the total capacity to over 1,600 prisoners. The supermax units opened in 2000, and federal grants paid 90% of the construction costs.
At one time the State of Arkansas housed all young male offenders in the state prison system in Varner. While this was the case, prison guards and prisoners nicknamed the facility the "Gladiator School."
In 2011 a fight among prisoners and correctional officers lead to injuries among correctional officers.
In 2004-2005 ADC installed an electric fence between two non-electric fences in the Varner Unit. It received testing in late December 2004 and was activated in January 2005. The system used inmate labor to assist with the construction of the fence.
Varner houses a vegetable processing plant.
The main campus of the Riverside Vocational Technical School is located behind the Varner Unit.
The West Memphis Three Death row:
- "New hearing ordered for 3 in Ark. scout deaths." Associated Press at the Worcester Telegram. Wednesday September 29, 2010. Retrieved on March 5, 2011. "Damien Echols is interviewed in the visiting area of the Arkansas Department of Correction Varner Unit prison in Varner,"
- "Varner Unit." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on July 18, 2010. "28 miles south of Pine Bluff off Highway 65 in Lincoln County."
- "Doors to Arkansas' Death Row Open Unexpectedly for Second Time." Associated Press at KAIT. January 29, 2004. Retrieved on March 5, 2011. "The Varner Supermax is near Grady in Lincoln County."
- History of the Arkansas Department of Correction[dead link]
- "State Capitol Week in Review" (Archive) State of Arkansas. June 13, 2008. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "Executions are carried out in the Cummins Unit, which is adjacent to Varner."
- Haddigan, Michael. "They Kill Women, Don't They?" Arkansas Times. April 9, 1999. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
- "Guide for Family and Friends" (Archive). Arkansas Department of Correction. 2 (4/27). Retrieved on July 18, 2010. " After intake, inmates are transferred to a parent unit for their initial assignment. Male inmates are assigned to the Varner, Cummins, East Arkansas, Grimes or Tucker Units."
- "Prison History and Gallery." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 22, 2010.
- Parker, Allison. The rest of their lives: Life Without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States. Human Rights Watch, 2005. 75. Retrieved from Google Books on March 5, 2011. ISBN 1-56432-335-8, ISBN 978-1-56432-335-4.
- "Death Row On The Move." KAIT. August 26, 2003. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
- "Ark. prison guards hurt during brawl with inmates." NECN. March 3, 2011. Retrieved on March 5, 2011.
- "Third Electric Fence Installed With Inmate Labor." ADC Advocate. Arkansas Department of Correction, February 2005. 3 (3/25). Retrieved on March 6, 2011.
- "2006 Fact Brochure." Arkansas Department of Correction. 8 (8/38). Retrieved on March 8, 2011.
- "Campuses." Riverside Vocational Technical School. Retrieved on March 6, 2011.
- Feyerick, Deborah and Stephanie Chen. " Echols of West Memphis 3 talks about appeal, death row." CNN. September 29, 2010. Retrieved on September 29, 2010.
- "Echols , Damien." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 25, 2010.
- "Miskelly Jr , Jessie L." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 25, 2010.