Ronald Gene Simmons, Christina Marie Riggs, Riley Dobi Noel – all of these Arkansas murderers and several more were incarcerated and executed here in the Natural State. Their last stop wasn’t pretty, of course. The Natural State is beautiful, but its prisons are rough, brutal places with inmates who are just as deadly as the injection that will eventually put an end to their incarceration. Whether or not you agree with the methods of punishment Arkansas utilizes, there’s no arguing about one point – absolutely nobody wants to end up in any of these institutions!
6. East Arkansas Regional Unit
This Arkansas Department of Correction prison is located in Lee County, approximately 17 miles southeast of Forrest City. The facility is one of the state's parent units for processed male inmates and serves for initial assignment. Established in 1992, prison operations include substance abuse treatment and educational programs. The prison system discovered in 2007 that prisoners were subject to excessive force by a number of guards who were later dismissed. Notable prisoners here include Joshua Macave Brown, perpetrator of the 1999 murder of Prairie Grove native Jesse Dirkhising in Rogers, Arkansas.
5. McPherson Unit
Used as the women's prison for the Arkansas Department of Correction, the McPherson Unit is located in Newport, off of Arkansas Highway 384. Established in 1998, the prison houses the state's death row for women. Christina Marie Riggs, a former nurse from Sherwood, was housed at McPherson for the murder of her two children before being executed by lethal injection in 2000.
4. Wrightsville Unit
This land in Wrightsville was once occupied by the Negro Boys Industrial School in Wrightsville, a state run school for teen boys convicted of minor offenses. In 1959, the dormitory at the school caught fire. 48 boys narrowly escaped, 21 others didn't. The bodies were interred at the Haven of Rest Cemetery in Little Rock, but no official memorial marker stands at the Wrightsville Unit to recognize the catastrophe.
3. Varner Unit
The Varner Unit was opened in 1987. The Supermax units opened in 2000. In addition to housing the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin) until 2011, all juvenile male offenders in the state prison system were once held at Varner - causing prison guards and prisoners to nickname the facility the "Gladiator School." In August 2003, all 39 Arkansas death row inmates were moved from the Maximum Security Unit to the Supermax at the Varner Unit. In 2011, a fight among prisoners and correctional officers broke out, causing injuries to all involved.
2. Cummins Unit
Formerly known as Cummins State Farm, the Cummins Unit is located located along U.S. Route 65, 28 miles south of Pine Bluff. Cummins housed Arkansas's male death row until 1986, when it was transferred first to the Tucker Maximum Security Unit. Life was extremely brutal in the past at Cummins, as each prisoner worked for 10 hours a day on the farm, six days a week in the fields. Prisoners were only excused if the outside temperature was below freezing. Some prisoners who were sent to the fields lacked shoes. Prisoners did not have fixed quotas. Instead they were told to do as much work as possible. Prisoners deemed to not be doing enough work were beaten.
1. Tucker Unit
Known as the birthplace of the electric shock torture device the "Tucker Telephone", the Arkansas Department of Corrections recognizes Tucker as one of the most dangerous prisons in the state. In 1967 the facility came under investigation for corruption, excessive brutality towards inmates, and even the covered-up deaths of inmates. Tucker has remained scandalous; in 2009 prison guards were fired for receiving lap dances on the job. One Tucker Unit prisoner was left to lie in his feces for an entire weekend before reciving hospital treatment. As far as executions go, notorious convicted murderer Richard Snell died at Tucker in 1995 by lethal injection.
Despite the sordid stories that come out of these Arkansas prisons, there are beneficial programs taking place in these facilities that actually do assist inmates in bettering their lives. However, no one would want to hit rock bottom at any of these Natural State institutions of corrections before deciding to make positive changes to their situation!