Penitentiary system

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary now renamed Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex (also called Brushy) is a large maximum-security prison near the town of Petros, Tennessee, operated by the Tennessee Department of Correction. Nearly encircled by a remote section of the Cumberland Plateau, escape attempts have been infrequent and almost always unsuccessful. The prison has a current capacity of 590. The current warden (as of 2007) is Jim Worthington.

Among the most famous inmates at Brushy Mountain was James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, Byron Looper, who was convicted in 2000 for the murder of State Senator Tommy Burks, is serving a life sentence at Brushy Mountain.

As of 2007, it is the oldest operating prison in Tennessee, having opened in 1896. The prison was founded as a result of the aftermath of the "Coal Creek War," an 1891 lockout of coal miners that took place in Coal Creek and Briceville, Tennessee, after miners protested the use of unpaid convict labor in the mines. This labor conflict was eventually resolved in favor of the coal miners with a bill passing the Tennessee state legislature to abolish the convict labor system, to be replaced by a modern penitentiary system of which Brushy Mountain was the first to be constructed.

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