Supermax Prisons

In all state systems, there are minimum, medium, and maximum security institutions (Pollock, 2005). Minimum facilities are usually work camps or “pastel prisons”; security is minimal because inmates are either low risk and/or nearing release. Medium facilities typically have perimeter fence and restricted movement, but prisoners have quite a bit of freedom of movement within the facility. Maximum security institutions are what people envision when they think of a prison – the wall is usually imposing and impenetrable, with towers armed by manned guards (Pollock, 2005).

According to Pollock (2005), when inmates commit disciplinary infractions in the lower security prisons, the punishment is often transferred to the maximum security institution in the state and when maximum-security prisoners commit offenses, they are either put into punitive segregation (the hole) or, for chronic offenders, transfer to a “supermax” is the solution. The supermax, in those state systems that have built such prisons, is for those “worst of the worst’ in-prison offenders.

Based on Pollock (2005), a supermax prison limits even the minimal movements that exist inside the facility; inmates are locked in their cells 23 to 24 hours a day. On the basis of research, some 20,000 prisoners were housed in these kinds of facilities in the United States – about 1. 8 percent of the prisoners serving sentences of a year or more in state and federal prisons which is about equivalent to the entire sentenced prison population of Oklahoma (Jewkes, 2006).

According to Jewkes (2006), this compares to fewer than 50 prisoners held in a very high security or close supervision centers in the prison system in England and Wales at the beginning of 1999 – less than 0. 1 percent of prisoners serving sentences of a year or longer. According to Pollock (2005), it is an eerie return to the Pennsylvania system, albeit with a high tech twist; video cameras monitor cells and halls 24 hours a day; there are no radios, televisions or other materials allowed in the cell.

Inmates are allowed out of their cells only infrequently because most activities can be conducted in their cells just like for example, the newest cells offer mist-spraying nozzles that allow prisoners to shower without leaving. By last count in 1997, there were 57 supermax prisons operated by 36 states and the federal government (Pollock, 2005). As Pollock stated (2005), it is unclear whether supermax construction will be slowing in the near future.

Inmates placed in supermax facilities will stay there approximately one to three years before they are released back to the general prison population. Super Prisons Supermax prisons are the culmination of the ‘get tough on criminals’ trend in America and are thought to ‘set the tone for the rest of the system (Liebling, 2005). Supermax prisons are astronomically expensive, but that expense means profits for builders, jobs for local workers, an expanded tax base for the community and a sense of security for correctional personnel (qtd.

in Liebling, 2005). According to Liebling (2005), if any of the new prisons these days have pretensions to grandeur, it is the supermax prison, which stands as the monument to solitary repression. Imprisonment The goals of isolation and retribution, reflecting social and political policies designed to “get tough on crime”, have made incarnations in jails or prisons the preferred methods for punishing convicted criminals (Cassel, 2007).

Jails are local city (city or county) correctional facilities that confine convicts who have been given sentences of a year or less as well as people who fall into a wide variety of other categories which includes: defendants who are awaiting a trial or sentencing; criminals who have been arrested for violating the conditions of probation, parole, or release on bond; minors being detained pending transfer to juvenile confinement facilities, mentally ill persons awaiting relocation to mental health facilities because of overcrowding; and inmates displaced from federal, state, or other confinement facilities because of overcrowding.