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Prison Overlook Popular With Sightseers

April 17, 1995

MOUNT OLIVE, W.Va. (AP) _ People are gathering at a ridgetop overlook to gaze upon West Virginia’s latest sightseeing attraction _ its new maximum-security prison.

``Most people drive up, stop, get out and then move on. But some of the locals like to sit all day long,″ state Trooper T.C. Boothe said Monday.

The overlook, reached by an old road on coal company property, is several hundred feet above and less than a mile away from the 802-bed Mount Olive Correctional Complex.

An inmate who spoke on condition of anonymity said prisoners are worried about the sightseers. ``There’s always the oddball lunatic with a rifle who could decide to mete out their own brand of frontier justice,″ he said.

The state is negotiating to buy the overlook area.

``I think we’d be better off if we had better control of that particular vantage point,″ said state Corrections Commissioner Nicholas Hun.

Inmates began moving into the prison in February from the Civil War-era West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville. The old prison had 30-foot sandstone walls; the new one is surrounded by a chain-link fence topped by razor wire.

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