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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.
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”