A 100 year-old prison rarely comes full circle in its mission and vision. In an era where women were putting their lives at risk to win the right to vote, a vision of humane prison reform slowly emerged. The Lorton Reformatory, now known as the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center, was constructed by prisoners in 1910 and has seen the many shades of prison life. Over the course of its life, the 1,100 acre property has housed an agricultural work camp, women suffragists, reformed alcoholics, and delinquent youths. It is now home to talented artists and community activists. “This place is fantastic,” said Jean Lambert of Fairfax, who recently completed an Introduction to Digital Photography class. “It’s so accessible and there is so much diversity in the classes,” she said while attending a recent lecture series at the Workhouse. Deplorable conditions and overcrowding in the District of Columbia prisons at the turn of the century propelled a change in philosophy of how prisoners were treated. This movement got its roots from Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, who notably chartered progressive reforms. At its inception, the Reformatory featured dormitory complexes rather than cell blocks. And the reform movement advocated training prisoners for a trade to enable them to obtain employment following their release. But humane treatment of prisoners was not always a priority at the workhouse. In late 1917, five years after the Women’s Workhouse was built, many detained women suffragists were beaten and abused in an event known as the Night of Terror, which was dramatized in the feature film Iron Jawed Angels. “Next year marks the 100th anniversary of when women picketed the White House for the right to vote,” said Laura McKie, chair of the board of directors at The Lorton Workhouse Arts Center. “It’s going to be a huge celebration here,” she said in her opening remarks at the recent lecture, FBI at Lorton Prison: One Agent’s Perspective. During his lecture, Dr. George Mahoney, retired special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), recalled his first day on the job on November 30th, 1973, when he was called to the Lorton Prison to investigate the murder of a corrections officer. “We worked very violent homicides,” Mahoney said about his time at the prison, which lasted about a decade during 1970’s and again in the 1990’s. “There were significant issues there,” he said. “We were always in the newspapers,” he said about the some 300 murders, assaults, and major disturbances he investigated. There were over 600 escapes in a five-year period in the mid-1970’s, which Mahoney attributed to the prison’s liberal furlough policy. “Furloughs are more of a philosophy and about reintegrating people back into the community,” Mahoney said. The Lorton Reformatory began with progressive views on the treatment of prisoners, but by the mid-1990’s, it had about 7,000 inmates, which was about 44% over capacity. “It’s a sociological problem, and it did get out of control,” said Mahoney in his closing remarks. As a result, The Reformatory began gradually moving inmates to other facilities in 2000. And the last group of prisoners left in November, 2001. The prison officially closed its doors in 2002, and with a grant, re-opened as a cultural epicenter where artists can showcase their talent and community members can learn a variety of artistic and dramatic skills. Today, the Lorton Workhouse Art Center spans 2,300 acres and consists of six artist studio buildings, the main galleries, the W-3 Theatre, the Art of Movement building and the Metropolitan School of the Arts. The Workhouse Arts Center is also home to performing arts, including theater, musical theater, film, music, and dance performances. Community members have a choice of over 800 arts education classes and workshops in a broad spectrum of art disciplines to choose from.