- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) One of the state's two "supermaximum-security" prisons built to house the most dangerous inmates will begin taking prisoners who are deemed less troublesome.
The state Department of Corrections plans to house less-dangerous inmates at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Southwest Virginia.
Wallens Ridge and nearby Red Onion State Prison were built to house Level 6 inmates, meaning those who are proven troublemakers and those who are serving life or long-term sentences.
Wallens Ridge will now house Level 5 inmates, long-term prisoners who have shown no disruptive behavior for at least two years. Department spokesman Larry Traylor said more room was needed for Level 5 inmates.
Mr. Traylor said the move will mean inmates at Wallens Ridge will be able to spend more time out of their cells and have more educational and employment opportunities as well as the chance for contact visits with relatives and friends.
The move is part of a statewide plan to get maximum use of cell and bed space, Mr. Traylor said.
As part of the plan, Sussex II State Prison will begin holding Level 4 inmates instead of Level 5, he said.
The federal Bureau of Prisons had been renting cells in Sussex II prison to hold, D.C. inmates, but the contract has ended and the space is now available for Virginia inmates, Mr. Traylor said.
Critics said the move supports their argument that Virginia did not need two "supermax" prisons for about 1,100 inmates each. The prisons, built at a cost of $149.5 million, opened in Wise County in the late 1990s.
Jamie Fellner, associate counsel for Human Rights Watch, said his group "welcomes Virginia's recognition that it was subjecting prisoners to unnecessarily harsh deprivations and security restrictions that could not be justified based on any risk that they posed."

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