Sunday, August 23, 2009

Prisoners Burn Northpoint

Friday night, a riot erupted at Burgin's Northpoint Prison, resulting in four injured and the building moderately damaged by fire. According to the Associated Press, "Officials would not say what caused the rioting".

According to a reader post made to a WLEX-TV news report:

"I have a brother there. I spoke with him at approx. 8 o'clock an he described it as hell breaking loose. It seems that the inmates that have become irate are angry because they feel that the eating conditions are deplorable which are causing the inmates to become sick. however the alternative is to purchase their food from the canteen which is being raised constantly by it's vendor Aramark. Leaving the inmates unable to purchase the vending food and they are angry and hungry".

The Danville Advocate-Messenger is reporting that the prison had been on lockdown since Tuesday, when one group of inmates assaulted two others. On Friday, some inmates started setting fires in trash cans as a sign of protest. It's also being reported that some prisoners were allowed to smoke cigarettes, and that this could also be blamed for their having access to matches. (Great. The anti-smoking fanatics among us will probably have a field day with that one.)

Interestingly, it's being reported that the kitchen and canteen were totally destroyed, and that it seemed to be the centerpiece of the arson attack. This may or may not lend credence to that WLEX reader comment about the riot being related to intolerable food quality. Still other sources are claiming the melee was racially motivated.

Northpoint has a pretty interesting history. According to their website's "About us" page, it was originally constructed as the Kentucky state mental hospital. In 1941, the Pentagon assumed control of the facilities and made it a military institution for Army soldiers suffering from psychiatric illness. Towards the close of the war, the site became a compound to contain Nazi POWs, probably including some for Operation Paperclip, a then-classified program to recruit Nazis into service for our own military-industrial complex. The Government renamed the site "Darnell Hospital" for their purposes, not sure why.

The Kentucky Department of Corrections took control of the property (which consists of 551 acres and approximately 50 buildings) in 1983 and it became Northpoint, a medium-security institution with a stated capacity of 1,256 inmates.

I'm also a little confused about the prison's whereabouts. News stories alternately refer to it as being in Burgin or Danville, and Google Maps actually lists it as being in both. Northpoint's website gives their address as being 710 Walter Reed Road in Burgin, yet Google Maps clearly shows that 710 Walter Reed Road is actually at a halfway point between the two, closer to Faulconer. Chalk it up to vaguely-defined rural boundaries, I reckon.

There's a cemetery on Northpoint's sprawling grounds, dating back to the Darnell days. According to findagrave, only two of the graves are identified with names and dates, and that there used to be an abandoned cremation oven on the premises until approximately 1982. From geneaological records, we do know some of the names of the many people interred here, which findagrave also has available here.

1 comment:

JLK said...

FYI, Google Maps now has a more accurate pinpoint location of the facility.