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Supermax Prisons. By: Dustin Kennelly. Overview. Definition Purpose History Today Cost Construction Life Inside Against. Definition.

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supermax prisons

Supermax Prisons

By: Dustin Kennelly

  • Definition
  • Purpose
  • History
  • Today
  • Cost
  • Construction
  • Life Inside
  • Against
  • 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.
  • Intended to hold the “worst of the worst” prisoners the corrections department feels that pose the highest risk to a correctional facility.
  • 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”
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
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
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
  • 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
  • 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