Wallens Ridge State Prison
|Location||Big Stone Gap, Virginia|
|Security class||Level Five|
|Managed by||Virginia Department of Corrections|
|Street address||272 Dogwood Drive
P.O. Box 759
|City||Big Stone Gap|
Wallens Ridge State Prison is a supermax state prison located in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, housing approximately 700 inmates. Since opening in April 1999, it has been a part of the Virginia Department of Corrections, and is identical to the Red Onion State Prison near Pound. The prison was built for over $70 million. As of 1999 the prison employs almost 800 people.
Human rights abuse
There has been speculation that human rights violations have occurred at Wallens Ridge. A 20-year-old inmate, serving time for crimes in Connecticut, committed suicide while housed at the supermax prison, allegedly due to conditions in the prison.
Inmate David Tracy hanged himself in his jail cell in April 2000. Tracy had no history of violent crimes and was serving time for his first conviction for possession with intent to distribute. When the state of Connecticut contracted with the state of Virginia to send prisoners there to ease overcrowding, only those convicted of violent crimes and who had violent issues in prison were to be transferred to the supermax prison. Tracy did not fit the profile, had never been in prison before, and had no history of violence while housed in Connecticut.
A few months later a second prisoner, Larry Frazier, died of electrocution by an Ultron II electroshock weapon. This raised questions about the proper treatment of prisoners, and led to in-depth, months-long reports by many newspapers, including the Hartford Courant and The Connecticut Post, reports that ultimately led to the state of Connecticut breaking its contract with Virginia, and pulling all of its prisoners out of Wallens Ridge.
Both the Tracy family and the Frazier family sued the state of Virginia and the prison for the deaths, ultimately receiving unknown settlements. The practice of shipping inmates from distant parts of the country has been cited as one of the leading causes of problems at supermax prisons. The issues associated with these events and questions of prisoner abuse are the subject of the Appalshop documentary, Up the Ridge.
- Ronald Rutan was moved here due to disciplinary problems after his escape from Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut.
- "At Va.'s Toughest Prison, Tight Controls", Washington Post, p. C1, April 18, 1999, retrieved 2010-01-16
- "Prisons Are Violent Places". Hartford Courant. 19 July 2000. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
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