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The Globalization of Supermax Prisons

The Globalization of Supermax Prisons

Edited by Jeffrey Ian Ross
Foreword by Loïc Wacquant
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Globalization of Supermax Prisons
    Book Description:

    "Supermax" prisons, conceived by the United States in the early 1980s, are typically reserved for convicted political criminals such as terrorists and spies and for other inmates who are considered to pose a serious ongoing threat to the wider community, to the security of correctional institutions, or to the safety of other inmates. Prisoners are usually restricted to their cells for up to twenty-three hours a day and typically have minimal contact with other inmates and correctional staff. Not only does the Federal Bureau of Prisons operate one of these facilities, but almost every state has either a supermax wing or stand-alone supermax prison.

    The Globalization of Supermax Prisonsexamines why nine advanced industrialized countries have adopted the supermax prototype, paying particular attention to the economic, social, and political processes that have affected each state. Featuring essays that look at the U.S.-run prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanemo, this collection seeks to determine if the American model is the basis for the establishment of these facilities and considers such issues as the support or opposition to the building of a supermax and why opposition efforts failed; the allegation of human rights abuses within these prisons; and the extent to which the decision to build a supermax was influenced by developments in the United States. Additionally, contributors address such domestic matters as the role of crime rates, media sensationalism, and terrorism in each country's decision to build a supermax prison.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5742-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword: Probing the Meta-Prison
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Loïc Wacquant

    It is often forgotten that, during the 1960s and into the mid-1970s, the United States was a global leader in progressive penality, much as it had been about a century earlier when Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville crossed the Atlantic to learn about American innovations in humane punishment for the benefit of European rulers.¹ Through practical experience and in-depth policy analysis, federal authorities had arrived at the view that the prison is an institution that feeds, rather than fights, crime; that the building of custodial facilities should be stopped and juvenile confinement phased out; and that only a...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Chapter 1 The Globalization of Supermax Prisons: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)
    Jeffrey Ian Ross

    Over the centuries, the way that societies sanction and punish deviants and criminals has significantly changed. From an almost exclusive focus on corporal punishments, governments, through their criminal justice apparatuses, especially the correctional system, now seem to focus on actual and alleged lawbreakers’ souls (Foucault 1977/1995). As part of this process, punishment is increasingly meted out beyond the public view, hidden inside large, bureaucratic, state-run structures called jails and prisons. Supermax prisons (also known as administrative control units, special or security handling units, and control handling units) seem to epitomize this kind of punishment and can be considered the next...

  6. Chapter 2 The Invention of the American Supermax Prison
    (pp. 10-24)
    Jeffrey Ian Ross

    Over the past three decades, a phenomenal number of individuals in the United States have been sentenced to jails and to state or federal prisons. However, not all correctional facilities are the same. Prisoners are sent to a wide array of institutions. These jails and prisons typically vary based on the level of security, ranging from minimum to maximum. Since the mid-1980s, however, a dramatic change has influenced corrections in the United States. Specifically, correctional systems at both the state and federal levels have introduced or expanded the use of supermax prisons. Supermax prisons, also known as special (or security)...

  7. Chapter 3 How Canada Built Its Supermax Prison
    (pp. 25-34)
    Jeffrey Ian Ross

    As one of the world’s leading advanced industrialized democracies, Canada has not missed its opportunity to build and run its own supermax facility.¹ However, unlike its neighbor to the south, a country in which almost every state has a supermax facility either as a stand-alone structure or as separate wing or annex of an existing correctional facility (Ross 2007b), only one supermax facility currently exists in Canada. At the present time, Canada operates a Special Handling Unit (SHU), which is located in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Québec (just outside of Montréal). The fact that Canada only has one supermax prison while its neighbor...

  8. Chapter 4 Supermaxes South of the Border
    (pp. 35-48)
    Patrick O’Day and Thomas O’Connor

    Globalization is as vague a concept (Scholte 2000) as supermax (Shalev 2009), so it is no wonder that confusion often ensues when examining whether the supermax phenomenon has any global implications. George Ritzer (1997, 2004) uses the term “globalization” to refer to the spread of a number of American-style characteristics throughout the world, and Matthew Robinson (2002) believes it includes the spread of American-style criminal justice in different countries. Jeffrey Ian Ross (2007b) suggests that supermaxes, defined as architecturally distinct stand-alone facilities, wings, or annexes, either new or retrofitted, that house the most persistent rule breakers under a very strict...

  9. Chapter 5 The Growth of the Supermax Option in Britain
    (pp. 49-66)
    Angela West Crews

    The United States has become so prolific at incarcerating law violators (with the assumption that “practice makes perfect”) that our ideas and practices are now being seen as the model for others, including many European countries. It seems as if the exchange of correctional ideas across the Atlantic has come full circle, with the American system taking an idea originally developed in Western Europe, modifying it to make it more extreme, and peddling it back to Europe as “better” or even as the “best.” The idea of a level of securitymoresecure than “maximum” (i.e., “the greatest amount possible”)...

  10. Chapter 6 Analyzing the Supermax Prisons in the Netherlands: The Dutch Supermax
    (pp. 67-79)
    Sandra L. Resodihardjo

    When it comes to Dutch supermax, there is hardly any controversy at the moment. It works and almost everyone is happy that it works—though there are some actors (most notably prisoners and their representatives and some lawyers and criminologists) who are not too keen on the concept of a Dutch supermax. But this does not mean that there has been no controversy whatsoever. On the contrary, the decision to build a supermax unit was quite controversial. So-called special security units (SSUs, known in Dutch as Extra Beveiligde Inrichtingen) turned out to be not as escape-proof as anticipated, resulting in...

  11. Chapter 7 Supermaximum Prisons in South Africa
    (pp. 80-94)
    Fran Buntman and Lukas Muntingh

    Since democratization, South Africa has struggled with serious crime at unprecedented levels. As Anthony Altbeker (2007, 12) notes, “[E]very piece of reliable data we have tells us that South Africa ranks at the very top of the world’s league tables for violent crime…. [It is] an exceptionally, possibly uniquely, violent society.” Concern about crime cuts across boundaries of race, class, urban-rural residence, age, religion, linguistics, and other divides in South Africa. It is therefore hard to fathom how public calls for being tough on crime, which rose in the 1990s, could not have affected the environment in which C-Max, the...

  12. Chapter 8 From “Secondary Punishment” to “Supermax”: The Human Costs of High-Security Regimes in Australia
    (pp. 95-110)
    David Brown and Bree Carlton

    It is not clear when the term “supermax” was first coined, but the lockdown at Marion prison in Illinois in 1983 is seen by many commentators as a pivotal moment (King 1999, 163). In the Australian context, we would like to draw a longer timeline, linking the emergence of supermax prisons with practices of “secondary punishment” in the early Australian penal colonies, Governor Bathurst’s “culture of Salutary Terror” (Evans, 2009, 60) inflicted on convicts transported for an offense in Britain and then convicted of another offense in the colony. Secondary punishment was a form of additional punishment for further offenses...

  13. Chapter 9 The Emergence of the Supermax in New Zealand
    (pp. 111-128)
    Greg Newbold

    It has been said that the era of the modern “supermax” began in 1979, when the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) designated a special “level 6” security category for USP Marion, in southern Illinois (Ross 2007b). Although Marion had been constructed during a relatively liberal era in American corrections and provided a range of programs to its 350 inmates, a series of escape attempts, serious assaults, and the murders of ten inmates and two staff in the early 1980s led to a state of emergency declaration in October 1983 and general lockdown. The institution remained locked down until 2007, when...

  14. Chapter 10 The Rise of the Supermax in Brazil
    (pp. 129-144)
    José de Jesus Filho

    In 1985, the state government of São Paulo created a separate annex to a psychiatric penitentiary hospital, establishing the Penitentiary Rehabilitation Center of Taubaté, commonly called the “Piranhão,” for the incarceration of the most violent inmates of the state. Before its creation, the only previous disciplinary penitentiary to house high-risk inmates had been located on Anchieta Island, off the São Paulo coast, which was closed in 1952 after a bloody mass escape. The reasons for placing inmates in Taubaté ranged from locking down escape-prone and disruptive inmates to deterring inmate-staff violence, murders, and active participation in riots. Other undefined notions,...

  15. Chapter 11 Guantánamo: America’s Foreign Supermax in the Fight Against Terrorism
    (pp. 145-159)
    Jeffrey Ian Ross and Dawn L. Rothe

    Much of what we know about the conditions at Guantánamo and the treatment of the detainees has been obtained through visits by US politicians, monitoring by representatives from international nongovernmental and human rights organizations, reports from individuals who have been released, statements by lawyers defending those who have been detained, books written by individuals who worked at this facility, and information from reporters.¹ Not only the decision to detain enemy combatants but also the conditions to which they have been subjected have been vigorously debated.

    Many of the conditions of the detention facilities and processes at Guantánamo can also be...

  16. Chapter 12 A Globalized Militarized Prison Juggernaut: The Case of Abu Ghraib
    (pp. 160-176)
    Dawn L. Rothe

    From the time Saddam Hussein (the former president of Iraq) came to power in 1979, Abu Ghraib was the symbol of death and torture. Over thirty thousand Iraqis were executed there and thousands more were tortured and mutilated only to be returned to society as visible evidence to others of Saddam’s power (American Enterprise Institute 2004; Kupelian 2004). This included amputations of body parts, rape, the removal of tongues, and systematic beatings. Executions were routine at Abu Ghraib. The pattern continued through the 1990s until October 2002, when Saddam granted amnesty to most prisoners in Iraq including those at Abu...

  17. Chapter 13 Conclusion: Globalization, Innovation, or Neither?
    (pp. 177-182)
    Jeffrey Ian Ross

    Contrary to many prison activists’ beliefs, neither an insidious process, nor a conspiracy is taking place at the hands of American correctional practitioners and businessmen traveling around the world, pushing and motivating countries, in almost evangelical fashion, to build supermax prisons. Although this may be true with other criminal justice policies and practices (e.g., Jones and Newburn 2002, 2007; Wacquant 2009), American correctional practitioners, prison consultants, construction companies, and contractors do not appear to be actively promoting the benefits of supermax prisons. There is no smoking-gun scenario, as was revealed in John Perkins’sDiary of an Economic Hit Man(2005)....

  18. Notes
    (pp. 183-194)
  19. References
    (pp. 195-216)
  20. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 217-220)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-222)