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Supermax Prisons: Overview and General Considerations

NCJ Number
C Riveland
Date Published
39 pages
This document discusses issues that are germane to planning and operating prison supermax units.
Units and programs for the management of dangerous and disruptive inmates have been a source of controversy in the field of corrections for many years. Although correctional approaches such as concentration, dispersal, and isolation are not new, the development of "supermax" prisons is a relatively recent trend. More than 30 States are operating one or more units or facilities created specifically for the most dangerous inmates. These units and facilities are significantly more expensive to build than traditional general population prisons, due in part to the enhanced and extensive security features on locks, doors, and perimeters; reinforced walls, ceilings, and floors; and, frequently, the incorporation of advanced electronic systems and technology. Their operating costs have proven to be much greater also. Providing meals and other services at individual cell fronts, multiple-officer escorts, and maintenance of elaborate electronic systems are examples of things that add up quickly. This report recommends research on the effects of such facilities on the inmates housed in them as well as the staff. It also recommends evaluation of the options that agencies might use to manage some types of inmates more effectively, as well as evaluation of the impact of these facilities on the correctional agency and its other facilities. Another recommendation is that professional standards be developed for such facilities, so as to provide a template for agencies to follow in the areas of policies and procedures, training, staffing, and program and service provision. 26 references and appended checklist of considerations for an extended control facility