Supermax Prisons: Their Rise, Current Practices, and Effect on Inmates

  title={Supermax Prisons: Their Rise, Current Practices, and Effect on Inmates},
  author={Jesenia M. Pizarro and Vanja M. K. Stenius},
  journal={The Prison Journal},
  pages={248 - 264}
In recent years, a number of new approaches in corrections have developed, one of which is the super-maximum, or “supermax,” prison. This article explores the roots of these institutions, explains how they operate, and examines their potential effects on inmate populations. The extant empirical research on supermax facilities suggests that these institutions have the potential to damage inmates’ mental health while failing to meet their purported goals (e.g., deterring inmates in the general… 
Supermax Prisons
In recent years, a number of new policies in corrections have developed, one of which is the placement of disruptive inmates in supermaximum, or supermax, prisons. The extant empirical research on
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Supermax Prisons
During the past 20 years, super-maximum-security prisons have become a common feature of the corrections landscape in America. Yet little is known about the goals or unintended effects associated
Supermax Prisons
Supermax prisons have substantially increased in popularity during the last 20 years. This article presents an examination of the current state of knowledge on supermax prisons, in terms of both case
Wardens' Views on the Wisdom of Supermax Prisons
Super-maximum security prisons have proliferated nationally, reflecting a belief among policy makers and corrections officials that such high-cost housing is effective. Yet little is known about the
Administrative Segregation From Within
The growth of the inmate population nationwide has given rise to supermax prisons over the past two decades. Among the controversial issues that supermax prisons face are concerns about the types of
Prison buildup and disorder
In contrast to the predictions of many, the prison buildup in the USA did not lead to dramatic increases in chaos behind bars. Instead, prison riots have become rarer, the homicide rate among inmates
Towards a Fair and Balanced Assessment of Supermax Prisons
Supermaximum (“supermax”) security prisons have become a common feature of the corrections landscape. Despite their substantial costs, questions about their constitutionality, growing fiscal and
Housing for the “Worst of the Worst” Inmates
Despite concerns whether supermaximum security prisons violate human rights or prove effective, these facilities have proliferated in America over the past 25 years. This punishment—aimed at the
An Assessment of Supermax Prisons Using an Evaluation Research Framework
In recent years, states have invested heavily in supermaximum (supermax) security prisons, yet critical questions about them remain unaddressed. In this article, the author examines these prisons
What Makes You the “Worst of the Worst?” An Examination of State Policies Defining Supermaximum Confinement
As a response to an increasing prison population and as a counteractive measure to problematic inmates, many states within the United States have established supermaximum (supermax) prisons or


This study assesses competing explanations of inmate collective action using data from a nationwide sample of 317 adult maximum-and medium-security state prisons. Most previous studies have relied on
Rates of Disorder in Higher-Custody State Prisons: A Comparative Analysis of Managerial Practices
Despite the rise of the prison management movement, little research has been conducted assessing the outcomes associated with different managerial practices in American prisons. One factor that has
Reexamining the cruel and unusual punishment of prison life
It has been widely assumed that prison is destructive to the psychological and emotional well-being of those it detains. However, this assumption has rarely been critically examined. The present
Reactions and Attributes of Prisoners in Solitary Confinement
These data, which are unusual in that they were collected from actual convicts who were responding to SC as it is normally administered in their institution, do not support the view that SC in prisons is universally damaging, aversive, or intolerable.
Reexamining Psychological Distress in the Current Conditions of Segregation
This study explored psychological distress as measured by the three global indices of the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) and compared inmates in two levels of restrictive environments against the general population in a medium security federal correctional institution.
The Rise and Rise of Supermax
In the last decade there has been a dramatic growth in the use of so-called super-maximum security custody in the United States. At the end of 1998 some 20,000 prisoners or 1.8 percent of all those
The Future of Supermax Confinement
The consistent challenge posed by supermax settings is their demonstrably adverse impact on the mental health of difficult, but vulnerable prisoners. These high-tech segregation settings also pose
Who's in the "Hole"?
This study focuses on a description and analysis of the uses and abuses of solitary confinement as a mechanism of social control in prison. The author examines the deterrent and labeling effects of
Well Kept: Comparing Quality of Confinement in Private and Public Prisons
While all three prisons are regarded as having been high in quality, the private prison outperformed its governmental counterparts on nearly every dimension.
Using Social Isolation to Change the Behaviour of Disruptive Inmates
SOLITARY confinement has been a traditional penological procedure in many countries throughout long periods. In Western society today, its primary application is for the segregation and punishment of