Criminal Minds Evolution: Is Stoneward Penitentiary a Real Prison in Virginia?

The second season of Paramount+’s procedural series ‘Criminal Minds: Evolution,’ the seventeenth overall installment of ‘Criminal Minds,’ introduces the viewers to the Stoneward Penitentiary, a supermax prison in Virginia. After cutting a deal with the Director of the FBI, serial killer Elias Voit ends up in this prison, awaiting his potential independence. Since the criminal offers to help the bureau catch “Gold Star,” another serial killer who emerges as a national threat, several Behavioral Analysis Unit agents visit the penitentiary to meet Elias. Even though the prison may appear real, especially considering the correctional facilities situated in the state, it only exists in the show!

The Reality Behind Stoneward Penitentiary

The Stoneward Penitentiary is a fictional prison in Virginia. The only supermax prison situated in the state is the Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, which doesn’t have any connection with the correctional facility in the series. That’s also the case with the Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big Stone Gap and the United States Penitentiary in Lee County, which are high-security prisons. The name of the prison in the police procedural can be traced back to the survival horror video game ‘Dead Frontier,’ which has an establishment called the Stoneward Penitentiary. Furthermore, the Gilneas City Prison in the multi-media franchise ‘Warcraft’ is alternatively known as the Stoneward Penitentiary.

Even though the Stoneward prison doesn’t exist in reality, the establishment we see in the series is a former penitentiary named Joliet Correctional Center, located in Joliet, Illinois. Originally known as the Illinois State Penitentiary, the prison operated from 1858 to 2002. While it was operational, the facility housed some of the most infamous criminals in the history of the country. John Wayne Gacy, who was imprisoned for the most homicides in the nation’s legal history at the time, was once an inmate in Joliet. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin, James Earl Ray, and the bank robber Baby Face Nelson are some of the other figures who were locked up in the establishment.

Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who kidnapped and murdered fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks, were also imprisoned in the Joliet prison. Their case was known as the “crime of the century.” Joliet is also featured in several films and TV shows. The first season of FOX’s globally renowned series ‘Prison Break’ was filmed in this establishment. The Carson State Prison in CBS’ ‘The Mentalist’ is also the Joliet correctional facility. Other productions shot in the establishment include FOX’s police procedural series ‘Bones,’ Bob Odenkirk’s comedy film ‘Let’s Go to Prison,’ and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Red Heat.’

Even though shots of the Joliet prison are used to establish the Stoneward Penitentiary, it is possible that the scenes set inside the establishment were filmed in a studio facility. Considering that these sequences are mostly limited to the cell of Elias Voit, it is unlikely that the production department used the real prison located in Illinois, which is considerably far away from Los Angeles, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia, the procedural drama’s primary locations. The original show had an extensive history of shooting in Quixote Studios in Los Angeles, which makes us consider the possibility of the production team utilizing the facility to double for the fictional Stoneward Penitentiary.

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