Artifact Spotlight: Lorton Prison Cells

Workers removing the cell bars and doors from the 
security section of Lorton Prison for the Museum.

In July 2014, the National Law Enforcement Museum acquired an important historical artifact that is a key component of the exhibit design—30 feet of steel cell doors and bars from the former Lorton Correction Complex in Lorton, Virginia

Lorton was the primary corrections facility for the District of Columbia for nearly 100 years. Conceived in 1908 during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, the Lorton facility was a national model for prison reform both with its dormitory style architecture and its philosophy of providing prisoners with healthy outdoor work and education. Over the years, Lorton became dangerously overcrowded and its buildings in need of extensive repair. In 2001, the prison was closed and all 1 million square feet of it was transferred to Fairfax County, Virginia

A design drawing of the two-story Maximum Security cells restored and re-created in the Museum.

The Museum thanks Chris Caperton of Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning for allowing us to extract the cells at the right time during the County’s extensive redevelopment plan for the old prison and grounds. The National Law Enforcement Museum is proud to make the cells of Lorton a centerpiece of its exhibition on corrections officers.

Scenes from Old Lorton Prison, 2014