|Security class||close, maximum|
|Managed by||Arkansas Department of Correction|
The Varner Unit is a high-security state prison for men 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 supermax and non-supermax facilities are separate from one another.
The Varner Unit Supermax 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 units" 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, Correction Officers and prisoners nicknamed the facility the "Gladiator School."
In 2011, a fight among prisoners and correctional officers led to injuries among correctional officers.
During 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.
The property is in Choctaw Township.
Varner houses a vegetable processing plant.
The main campus of the Riverside Vocational Technical School is located behind the Varner Unit.
- Jessie Misskelley: member of the West Memphis Three (released on August 19, 2011).
- Jason Baldwin : member of the West Memphis Three (released on August 19, 2011).
- "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 Archived December 6, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
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- "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."
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- "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 Archived 2011-03-10 at the Wayback Machine." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 22, 2010.
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- "Third Electric Fence Installed With Inmate Labor[permanent dead link]." ADC Advocate. Arkansas Department of Correction, February 2005. 3 (3/25). Retrieved on March 6, 2011.
- "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP: Choctaw township, AR" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2022-08-01.
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- "Campuses Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine." Riverside Vocational Technical School. Retrieved on March 6, 2011.
- Stephen Simpson, Prison seminary program in state looking to expand with a new facility, arkansasonline.com, USA, October 9, 2022
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- "Echols , Damien." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 25, 2010.
- "Miskelly Jr , Jessie L." Arkansas Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 25, 2010.
- Varner Unit, Arkansas Department of Corrections
- "Varner Unit" entry from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture