Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Total Confinement

Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison

Lorna A. Rhodes
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 329
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnjk3
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Total Confinement
    Book Description:

    In this rare firsthand account, Lorna Rhodes takes us into a hidden world that lies at the heart of the maximum security prison. Focusing on the "supermaximums"-and the mental health units that complement them-Rhodes conveys the internal contradictions of a system mandated to both punish and treat. Her often harrowing, sometimes poignant, exploration of maximum security confinement includes vivid testimony from prisoners and prison workers, describes routines and practices inside prison walls, and takes a hard look at the prison industry. More than an exposé,Total Confinementis a theoretically sophisticated meditation on what incarceration tells us about who we are as a society. Rhodes tackles difficult questions about the extreme conditions of confinement, the treatment of the mentally ill in prisons, and an ever-advancing technology of isolation and surveillance. Using her superb interview skills and powers of observation, she documents how prisoners, workers, and administrators all struggle to retain dignity and a sense of self within maximum security institutions. In settings that place in question the very humanity of those who live and work in them, Rhodes discovers complex interactions-from the violent to the tender-among prisoners and staff.Total Confinementoffers an indispensable close-up of the implications of our dependence on prisons to solve long-standing problems of crime and injustice in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93768-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. AUTHOR’S NOTE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)

    Waiting on my side of a visiting booth in a maximum security unit, I am looking through a clear, thick plastic window into a small, bare room identical to the one in which I am sitting. But unlike the ordinary wooden door I just closed behind me, the door into the room on the other side is solid steel with a small hinged slot, or cuffport, at waist height. As it opens, two blue-uniformed officers hand in a dark-haired young man in a white jumpsuit, hands cuffed behind his back. The door closes behind him with a heavy clank. In...

  6. PART I CONDITIONS OF CONTROL

    • Chapter 1 CONTROLLING TROUBLES
      (pp. 21-60)

      The control unit sits alone on the prison grounds, built partly underground and surrounded by its own razor-wire fence. My companion, a quiet man who works in a different section of the prison, leads the way through the double gate in the fence, through a set of heavy metal doors, along a clean, bright hallway, and past several small offices. Finally we emerge into the circular interior. A glassed-in control booth sits in its center, slightly elevated, a row of video monitors visible above the booth officer’s head. Around the perimeter are two tiers of tightly secured cells. Each has...

    • Chapter 2 THE CHOICE TO BE BAD
      (pp. 61-96)

      I joined the correctional training class during the week the students—new officers with less than a year on the job—learned how to use restraints. Sitting at long tables in a cavernous building just outside the perimeter of the prison, we were each issued a cloth bag containing a set of handcuffs and leg irons. The keys were passed out separately, and our instructors—all veteran correctional workers—warned us firmly not to lose them. I discovered from the first exercise—using one hand to cuff the other—that it took concentration to achieve the smooth, sliding effect that...

  7. Part II NEGOTIATING TREATMENT, MANAGING CUSTODY

    • Chapter 3 THE ASYLUM OF LAST RESORT
      (pp. 99-130)

      New prisoners arrive at the receiving unit on the chain bus or, in prison terms, “on the chain.” They are shackled two by two in leg irons, their hands cuffed to chains around their waists. It takes each pair a long minute to climb awkwardly out of the bus and walk, steps shortened by the chain, to the low building where they will be processed into the prison system. Inside the locked double doors, each new inmate is moved through a series of steps; he will take off the orange jumpsuit in which he arrived, answer medical questions from a...

    • Chapter 4 CUSTODY AND TREATMENT AT THE DIVIDE
      (pp. 131-160)

      One day after going out to lunch with a prison mental health worker, I returned with him to the main gate of his institution. A buzz of movement and intensity signaled that something had happened: the prison was locked down in the immediate aftermath of an escape attempt. No one, not even someone making a delivery, was allowed to leave the grounds.

      My companion tried to walk me into the interior of the prison but was stopped at a gate by the booth officer, who barked, “What the hell do you think you’re doing, escorting someone through here right now?”...

  8. Part III QUESTIONS OF EXCLUSION

    • Chapter 5 THE GAMES RUN DEEP
      (pp. 163-190)

      The first time I met Pete Owen, all I could see through the door of his control unit cell was his shaved head and pale young face, somewhat indistinct in the murky winter light filtering through the frosted window. When I interviewed him later in a visiting booth, the rituals of escorting and cuffing surrounded him, as they do all control unit prisoners, with an aura of danger. At that point he had lived in a control unit for over five years—the better part of his twenties—following his participation in a violent incident. Some time later, through efforts...

    • Chapter 6 STRUGGLING IT OUT
      (pp. 191-224)

      Seven men are meeting in a neat, carpeted classroom on the other side of the prison from the control unit they manage. John Larson, who administers the unit, his unit manager, Bill McKinley, two uniformed staff, the unit psychologist, and two correctional counselors have gathered to discuss the issue of change.

      LARSON: [These control units are] happening everywhere in the country. But you don’t hear about those places burning and the problems [they are having] all around the country. You don’t get a vision of the inhumanity that comes out of this that we all are aware can occur. There...

  9. GLOSSARY OF PRISON TERMS
    (pp. 225-226)
  10. APPENDIX: NOTE ON RESEARCH
    (pp. 227-230)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 231-282)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 283-298)
  13. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 299-300)
  14. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. 301-302)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 303-315)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 316-316)