Supermax Prisons

We read three articles about Supermax prisons. One of the main threads of these articles was that prisoners are often placed in Supermax prisons unnecessarily. Although prison officials and guards say the the SHU (Special Housing Unit) is reserved for only, “the worst of the worst,” often it is the more politically conscious, jailhouse lawyers, or mentally unstable that are sent to the SHU. Many people believe that the SHU exacerbates mental illness and creates symtoms- this definitely makes sense, solitary confinement for extended periods of time could drive any person to insanity. Inmates in solitary confinement become, “perpetual prisoners” and they forget how to be contributors to society, they forget how to interact with people for lack of doing so.

Another reason why Supermax prisons are not based upon rehabilitation is that during the 1980s, there was a surge of prison building in which many people made lots of money by creating more prisons. This surge of prisons created a demand for prisoners, a demand to retain prisoners. This is a very sick concept, people profit from prisoners failing to succeed on the outside, people profit when prisoners are sent back to prison.

So should Supermax prisons be eliminated? Kupers, a psychologist suggests that progress evaluations be conducted by an outside agency (to avoid corruption). These evaluations would avoid severe abuses of the Supermax prisons, but is a Supermax prison an abuse in itself? Is it inhumane to not allow any sort of human contact for another person? To me it definitely seems cruel and unusual and does not seem to achieve any goal of rehabilitation. Although, it is a difficult issue. In many cases, I think to truly rehabilitate a person would require so many resources, so many people. I am not saying that it is impossible, but how many resources should we dedicate to the rehabilitation of prisoners? Ideally, every prisoner could have psychiatric evaulations on a regular basis, access to rich educational and physical health facilities, and good social networks. But then, I think, there are plenty of people in this world who have done nothing wrong, they have comitted no crimes, and they have no access to education, psychiatrists, or even clean water and sufficient food. What about these people?

What it comes down to is basic equality. We have to acknowledge that every person has basic rights, whether they have commited a crime or not. We can always strive for equality, globally and within our society.

Lorna Rhodes, an anthropologist brought up the point that for some people, the mentally ill, homeless, substance abusers etc, the prison might be the “last remaining public institution willing to take them in.” Prisons may be the only place for some people to go. This statement demonstrates a lack of public services for those in the outside society, lack of care for the homeless, mentally ill, and substance abusers. Because of this lack of infrastructure, people are pushed into prisons, and engrained into the system. We need these services both outside of prisons, so that people don’t go to prison for lack of another place to go, and we need these services in prisons to help people to get out.

In my opinion, there is no justification for Supermax prisons. I cannot see why they are necessary.

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