Supermax Prisons By: Dustin Kennelly
Overview • Definition • Purpose • History • Today • Cost • Construction • Life Inside • Against
Definition • A Supermax facility (or control unit facility) is a facility that holds prisoners in their personal cells 22-23 hours per day, under constant surveillance, generally only allowing them out for medical attention, visitations that are extremely rare and non-contact.
Purpose • Intended to hold the “worst of the worst” prisoners the corrections department feels that pose the highest risk to a correctional facility.
History • From “The Contemporary Relevance of Early Experiments with Supermax Reform” by Hans Toch • Ideas similar to Supermax was looked at as early as the 1800’s but abandoned due to effect on mental health of the prisoners • After being ordered by the New York State Legislature Auburn Prison warden Gershom Powers placed a “select class of convicts to be composed of the oldest and most heinous offenders, and to confine them constantly in solitary cells” on Christmas 1821. • Government and the public felt that the corrections system wasn’t working and needed to fix it. • After reports surfaced of attempted suicide and psychological problems the New York Governor ended the experiment. • Another experiment in Rhode Island by a Dr. Cleveland also found that prisoners held in solitary confinement began to have psychological problems, after studying 40 prisoners 25% of them “manifested decided symptoms of derangement”
History • Alcatraz • Was opened as a federal prison in August 1934 and is now considered the countries first Supermax due to its design, location and at that time it held the countries worst criminals • It is believed that no one ever escaped the facility • Held major criminals of its time including Al Capone, Robert Stroud, George Kelly, and James Bulger • Closed in 1963 due to expense in operating facility, was replaced by a new facility being constructed in Marion, Illinois The United States Penitentiary
History • The United States Penitentiary opened in 1963 to replace Alcatraz • Facility held 500 of the countries worst inmates • Became the United States first Supermax when it was placed on permanent lockdown in 1983 after inmates killed two guards • Lockdown continued till 2006 when the facility was remodeled into a Medium Security Prison and fully replaced by ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado.
Today • United States Federal Government Operates Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) Florence or Alcatraz of the Rockies • Opened in 1994 at a cost of $60 million • Was designed as a Supermax facility unlike the Marion Facility • Generally has around 430 male prisoners under 23 hour lockdown, with one hour spent in cement recreational yard. • Prison has 1,400 remote controlled doors, Laser beams, pressure pads, and guard dogs to prevent escape • Reported by “An Assessment of Supermax Prisons Using a Evaluation Research Framework” by Daniel P. Mears • 44 States also operate at least one Supermax unit housing over 25,000 inmates
Cost • Reported by “An Assessment of Supermax Prisons Using a Evaluation Research Framework” by Daniel P. Mears • 2-3 times more expensive to build and operate due to technology, increased staffing, and only one inmate per cell.
Cell Construction • Based of ADX Florence Construction • 7 ft x 12 ft • Solid Metal Door then a space and a steel bar door • Cement poured BED, DESK, STOOL • Stainless steel SINK, TOLIET and polished metal Mirror • Each prisoner has personal shower • All water appliances have shutoffs built in to make sure prisoners cannot flood or damage the appliance • Cells have windows that are 4 ft by 4ft, but allow you only to see the sky and the roof • Electronically controlled doors, cameras, censors to monitor every movement.
Life Inside • 22-23 hours a day in your personal cell • TV & Radio that can be taken away as punishment • Every movement is monitored by cameras • Every time a prisoner is moved the facility shuts down. • 1-2 hours outside the cell is spent in a cement recreational area. • Prisoners may be able to get out of supermax’s in some cases • ADX Florence has a 3 year program that slowly socializes you to interacting with other inmates to eventually release you back to maximum security prison • A single violation gets you placed back into full restriction
Against • Many people today are still against Supermax facilities • Why? • Psychological Stressors • Are they Truly Needed? • Do they prevent or increase delinquency in prisons? • Cost • Lack of Programming and Treatment • May be just a short term solution. • Suggested by “An Assessment of Supermax Prisons Using a Evaluation Research Framework” by Daniel P. Mears
References • The Contemporary Relevance of Early Experiments with Supermax Reform by Hans Toch • An Assessment of Supermax Prisons Using a Evaluation Research Framework by Daniel P. Mears • Supermax Prisons in the Consciousness of Prisoners by Kenneth E. Hartman