MARION, Ill. – The federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, is where convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was released in exchange for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russia.
The prison has a notorious past. It was once considered a supermax security facility with the toughest security measures in the country. Prisoner uprisings and the murder of two guards in the 1980s led to a 23-year lockdown.
The prison has since been turned into a medium security facility, allowing more prisoners to be held there. Some notorious prisoners who have served time in Marion include New York crime boss John Gotti and former Major League Baseball star Pete Rose.
News of the prisoner exchange was greeted with mixed emotions outside the prison. Johnson County resident Beth McFaren was happy for Griner, but has doubts about whether releasing Bout was necessary.
“Is there some other, less dangerous person we could have released to get her back?” McFaren said.
The case of former U.S. marine Paul Whelan has also raised some concerns. Some question why more could not be done to bring him home.
“You got a marine still sitting over there that’s been over there, and this country really needs to back their military,” said Rudy Sowers, a Nashville, Illinois resident. “It’s a bad deal.”