Against SuperMax

Some prisoners act out so violently against other prisoners and guards that the need to be isolated. And there need to be punishments for offenses committed in prison.

That said, there certainly aren’t 25,000 people who need to be isolated for prolonged periods. But that’s the current estimated population of “SuperMax” prisons and prison wings in the United States. (That doesn’t count the larger population isolated in “Segregated Housing Unites” – SHUs – otherwise known as “The Hole.”)

And even when long-term isolation is necessary, it doesn’t have to look like a SuperMax, which inflicts torture via sensory deprivation. No one – no one – should be subjected to such treatment.

I have no idea of the legal merits of the legal case against the Federal SuperMax at Florence, CO: the lawless law-n-order faction in Congress has made prisoners’-rights litigation almost impossible to win. But here’s hoping that Judge Matsch figures out a way to shut it down.

Comments

  1. O. B. Server says

    re: “And even when long-term isolation is necessary, it doesn’t have to look like a SuperMax, which inflicts torture via sensory deprivation. No one – no one – should be subjected to such treatment.”

    If people were reminded of the facts of US prison torture, excessive prison populations, prison slavery (UNICOR, 13th Amendment slavery loophole for “crime”, etc), for-profit prisons … if people were reminded of these things the same way they have the “drugs/pot cause crime” theme catapulted onto them, people would be outraged. The prison torture and slavery is done in their name, on their dime. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that such torture/slavery prisons were designed to make people more likely to commit crime on release – thereby insuring a bountifully fresh crop of new criminals, who, will need more prisons. A godsend to ‘get-tough’ politicians and the police state.

    • says

      I’m sort of pessimistic on this. I tend to fear that far too many people – certainly Americans – have a far too easy, unexamined relationship with retribution. Casually, you often hear ordinarily intelligent, compassionate people advocate absurdly cruel and unusual punishments for criminals.

      • tacitus says

        Until they or a loved one gets caught up in the criminal justice system… then it’s amazing how fast they change their tune.

        • nypaul says

          two exclamation points coming your way, tacitus.

          “Until they or a loved one gets caught up in the criminal justice system… then it’s amazing how fast they change their tune.”

  2. says

    All too often, prison security measures are transmuted into methods to coerce prisoners. See the case of Susan McDougal. From Wikipedia: “From September 9, 1996 until March 6, 1998, McDougal spent the maximum possible 18 months imprisonment for civil contempt, including 8 months in solitary confinement, and was subjected to ‘diesel therapy. (the practice of hauling defendants around the country and placing them in different jails along the way). In her case, Susan was shuffled from Arkansas to ‘Los Angeles to the Oklahoma City transfer center, and then on to the Pulaski County Jail in Little Rock, Arkansas.’”

  3. burnspbesq says

    The District Court will almost certainly grant the Government’s motion to dismiss. Neither an appeal to the Tenth Circuit nor a petition for cert to the Supreme Court is likely to get anywhere. Congress has well and truly stacked the deck against these plaintiffs, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

    What could lead to change? Hell if I know.

  4. Colin says

    It’s bad enough when solitary is used as a temporary punishment. But I can think of few more horrifying punishments than permanent solitary confinement – there are people who have been kept for *decades* in this condition. All alone in your little cell with no prospect of doing anything to improve your life ever again, the only change coming from the slow march of ageing. It makes the death penalty seem humane by comparison.

    • Colin says

      There’s also the general problem of severe punishments being dished out with no judicial oversight. There seems to be little to stop prison governors from running their shops with the arbitrariness of a mad emperor.