The so-called Supermax prisons were introduced to great fanfare as a place where the worst of the worst prisoners would be housed and society would be protected. However , the Atlantic has an ongoing series called An American Gulag uncovering abuses of prisoners’ basic human rights in ADX, the Supermax in Florence, Colorado. Two lawsuits proceeding in federal court charge that the conditions are so abusive, they are literally driving prisoners insane. I read the first part of the series and a follow up on the lawsuits and was horrified and disgusted by the inhumane treatment of prisoners living with severe and persistent mental illness
Prisoners are routinely denied their mental health medications, then placed in units where they should not be housed and then punished as they become sicker. Treating people this way is counter productive because they are expected to return to society and if they are more psychologically damaged upon being released. Here is a link to a story on National Public Radio about the ADX supermax lawsuits. http://www.npr.org/2012/06/21/155513749/the-grim-realities-of-life-in-supermax-prisons.
State supermax prisons like the one in Boscobel, Wisconsin are also being challenged. The ACLU fought the state for many years, bringing a suit and winning damages and bringing about reforms. The problems were similar to those in other prisons: extreme isolation, extremely cruel behavior modification and warehousing mentally ill patients in a because they needed bodies to fill up the prison.
I will be following the suits against the ADX supermax out of a sense of civic duty. I need to learn what is being done to people with my money and understand the real costs of these policies. Perhaps my readers will be moved to follow my example.
- The Best Reporting on Mental Illness in Prisons (propublica.org)
- The Best Reporting on Mental Illness in Prisons (thedailybanter.com)