Volunteers organized a van trip for families of inmates incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison and Wallens Ridge State Prison, which are located near the border of Kentucky and Virginia, in Wise County, VA. The supermax prisons are approximately 31 miles apart. Most of the people making the trip are from Virginia urban centers: Washington D.C., Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Richmond and Roanoke.

Incarcerated men and women often do not serve their time alone. The impact of their incarceration reverberates back to the communities from which they wereremoved. Most inmates are incarcerated more than 100 miles from their homes.

The barriers to visiting an incarcerated loved one can be high. According to a study published in Crime and Delinquency, written by Joshua Cochran, Daniel Mears, and William Bales, the average inmate only received 2.1 visits over the course of their entire sentence.

The combination of distance, lack of transportation, missed days of work, and organizing childcare can be too much for some people to overcome. For inmates, not receiving visits while incarcerated can have “collateral consequences” that damages social ties to family and community.

 

 

The van trip started in Richmond, but most of the travelers trips began hours earlier from the far corners of the state.

The van trip started in Richmond, but most of the travelers trips began hours earlier from the far corners of the state.

On I-81 driving towards Wise County, VA. 

On I-81 driving towards Wise County, VA. 

Bonnie Turner - Chesapeake, VA - Traveled over 460 mi. -Last visit 2 years

Bonnie Turner - Chesapeake, VA - Traveled over 460 mi. -Last visit 2 years

“Me being a mother, I just want to sit there and hold his hand. But they have a partition that so we can’t touch them. It’s kind of hard, but that OK, because they can’t stop me from watching him.” -Bonnie Turner
The moon flickers through the trees on the road between Red Onion State Prison and Wallens Ridge State Prison. The supermax prisons sit 31 miles apart near the heart of Appalachia coal country.

The moon flickers through the trees on the road between Red Onion State Prison and Wallens Ridge State Prison. The supermax prisons sit 31 miles apart near the heart of Appalachia coal country.

Sabrina Turner sleeps on the over night trip to Wise County, Virginia.

Sabrina Turner sleeps on the over night trip to Wise County, Virginia.

Pamela Miles - Richmond, VA. - Travel over 350 mi. - Last Visit 1 year Her son has autism and ADHD and he has a problem being still. She afraid that if she beings him to the prison they might cancel there visit because of his disorder.

Pamela Miles - Richmond, VA. - Travel over 350 mi. - Last Visit 1 year

Her son has autism and ADHD and he has a problem being still. She afraid that if she beings him to the prison they might cancel there visit because of his disorder.

“My kids they miss their Dad.” -Pamela Miles
On the winding road leading from Red Onion State Prison.

On the winding road leading from Red Onion State Prison.

“It feels like I’m in a desolate no man’s land” - Amber
The group stops for breakfast in Wise County, VA.

The group stops for breakfast in Wise County, VA.

Lessie Gardner - Washington DC - Traveled over 500 mi - Last Visit 21 years 

Lessie Gardner - Washington DC - Traveled over 500 mi - Last Visit 21 years 

“I was crushed, I was hurt, so hurt. I wanted to see him so bad.” -Lessie Gardner
A christian memorial stands on the road that leads to Red Onions gates.

A christian memorial stands on the road that leads to Red Onions gates.

Essie Jeanette Manns awaits to disembark the van to visit her incarcerated family member.

Essie Jeanette Manns awaits to disembark the van to visit her incarcerated family member.

Louise Goode - Hampton, VA - Traveled over 430 mi - Last visit 3 years

Louise Goode - Hampton, VA - Traveled over 430 mi - Last visit 3 years

The van nears the entrance to the road that leads to Wallens Ridge State Prison

The van nears the entrance to the road that leads to Wallens Ridge State Prison

“Red Onion State Prison stands out like a hideous scar among southwest Virginia’s otherwise beautiful, rolling and wooded hills. Viewed from the air it looks like a mountain whose crown was hacked off and leveled flat.”

-Dan Pens, Prison Legal News July, 1999
Wallen Ridge State Prison fence.

Wallen Ridge State Prison fence.

Essie Jeanette Manns - Roanoke, VA - Traveled 180 miles

Essie Jeanette Manns - Roanoke, VA - Traveled 180 miles

“The set-up of the visitation room actually devastates me.” -Essie Jeanette Manns
Red Onion State Prison is located on a former strip mining cite in rural Virginia.

Red Onion State Prison is located on a former strip mining cite in rural Virginia.

Families leave the van to visit their incarcerated family members.

Families leave the van to visit their incarcerated family members.

Inmates get a free picture ticket as reward for good behavior.

Inmates get a free picture ticket as reward for good behavior.

“It felt good to touch my son, to look at him with no partition between us. There is nothing like touching a child.” -Louise Goode
Louise Goode looks out the window as Red Onion State Prison comes into view.

Louise Goode looks out the window as Red Onion State Prison comes into view.