3 Powerful Ways Prisons Have Been Repurposed Into Something New

outside of a workhouse
Zain Murdock
April 24, 2024

From 2000 to 2022, 21 U.S. states partially or fully closed "correctional" facilities, removing 81,444 prison beds. But they didn't just shut down. Some were transformed and given a new purpose.

After closing in 2012, a prison in Gainesville, Florida, became GRACE Marketplace. It offers people without a permanent address housing, food, and job training. According to its website, GRACE Marketplace has led to a 40% drop in houselessness in Alachua County.

The Staten Island prison formerly known as Arthur Kill closed in 2011. Now, it's a movie studio, where projects like “Ocean's 8” and “Orange Is The New Black” were filmed. 

Interestingly enough, it had been something else even before it was a prison: a drug rehabilitation center.

Lastly, Fairfax County, Virginia's Workhouse Arts Center, once held incarcerated people in the DMV area as Lorton Reformatory. After a Clinton-era act shuttered it, it began hosting art galleries, dance studios, music rooms, classes, and more. In 2020, however, the facility came under fire for hosting a "Nightmare Prison" event. There's definitely more work to be done.

An abolitionist future could mean not only freeing us from incarceration, but also building new resources for the community with its legacy in mind. From community gardens and freedom schools to recreational centers and free medical facilities, what more can we imagine and create?