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Prison

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Prison

What is a Supermax prison? "Supermax" is short for "super-maximum security." It is a place designed to house violent prisoners or prisoners who might threaten the security of the guards or other prisoners. Some prisons that are not designed as supermax prisons have "control units" in which conditions are similar. The theory is that solitary confinement and sensory deprivation will bring about "behavior modification." In general. Supermax prisoners are locked into small cells for approximately 23 hours a day. They have almost no contact with other human beings. There are no group activities: no work, no educational opportunities, no eating together, no sports, no getting together with other people for religious services, and no attempts at rehabilitation. There are no contact visits: prisoners sit behind a plexiglass window. Phone calls and visitation privileges are strictly limited. Books and magazines may be denied and pens restricted. TV and radios may be prohibited or, if allowed, are controlled by guards. Prisoners have little or no personal privacy. Guards monitor the inmates' movements by video cameras. Communication between prisoners and control booth officers is mostly through speakers and microphones. An officer at a control center may be able to monitor cells and corridors and control all doors electronically. Typically, the cells have no windows. Lights are controlled by guards who may leave them on night and day. For exercise there is usually only a room with high concrete walls and a chin-up bar. Showers may be limited to three per week for not more than ten minutes. "Prisoners are confined to a concrete world in which they never see a blade of grass, earth, trees or any part of the natural world." There are complaints that inmates who misbehave while in supermax or control units are put into "strip cells" (sometimes at temperatures near 50 degrees with only boxer shorts to wear and no bedding), or are chained spread-eagle and naked to concrete beds. Other complaints include denial of medical care, interference with mail, arbitrary beatings, "hog-tying" (intertwining handcuffs and ankle-cuffs), "cock fights" (double celling inmates who are likely to attack each other), and injury to inmates during "cell extractions." John Perotti, writing after having spent 10« out of 12 years in control units, says: "Every aspect of life in the Control Unit is meant to debase and degrade a prisoner's very soul the purpose being that when released to general population where conditions are somewhat improved, the prisoner causes no problems . . . for fear of being sent back to the Control Unit." Plans for Youngstown supermax. Announcing the groundbreaking of Ohio's new $65 million 500-bed supermax prison to be built in Youngstown, the state's prison chief, Reginald A. Wilkinson, is reported to have said this prison will be where "the worst of the worst of the worst" will be confined in near isolation. "Prisoners will spend 23 hours most days in 8-by-10-foot cells where the televisions will be tuned primarily to institutional programs or religious services. . . . There will be no group prisoner movement. "Inmates will have no outside recreation. Inside recreation will consist of a visit to a larger nearby cell, equipped only with a chin-up bar and a shower. One at a time, they will spend one hour a day there." The "prototype", Colorado State Penitentiary. The "prototype" or model for the Youngstown supermax is the Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP). Each cell has a lidless, stainless-steel toilet, a bed, a stool bolted to the floor, built-in shelves, and a TV with no controls. The indoor recreation room has a slit in the wall to let in fresh air. One difference between the Colorado State Penitentiary and the Youngstown supermax is that the housing units system in Colorado is fully air conditioned and the proposed Ohio facility is not. At the Colorado State Penitentiary, inmates enter at Level I and are expected to proceed through Level II to Level III. Level I inmates have no privileges. Prisoners at Level II have television but programs are determined by the prison's own station. Prisoners at Levels I and II must wear handcuffs, belly chains and leg shackles, and must be escorted by two guards whenever they leave their cells. At Level III, prisoners have more personal freedoms and more spending money. Level III prisoners are "allowed to walk the fifty feet to the shower or exercise room or telephone without escort. Prisoners at the different levels are mixed together in each unit, so that the privileges of those in Level III are visible to all." II. Who gets put into supermax prisons and control units? Who are "the worst of the worst" prisoners? Supermax prisons are justified by prison officials as necessary to control violent

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