The Old Lorton Workhouse, Lorton, Virginia

John Cowgill: Stories of the Railroad

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You are in Washington D.C.  You have committed a crime and have been arrested.  You go to trail and is found guilty.  The sentence is prison.  Where did you go?  You were sent to the Lorton Reformatory in Lorton, Virginia where you would serve your time.

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Why Lorton, Virginia?

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The jail in the District of Columbia was overcrowded.  With no available property, land was acquired in suburban Virginia.  Beginning in 1910, prisoners were sent there to serve time.  The prison was enlarged through the years and became a workhouse where prisoners were taught agriculture, brickmaking and canning.  Among those imprisoned here were those from the National Women’s Party who, in the 1920’s, were arrested for protesting the women’s right to vote.  Among them was Lucy Barns, one of the founders of the movement.  The prison remained in operation until it was finally closed in 2001.

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What happened to the facility?

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