Are supermax prisons harming prisoners?

Are prisons doing more harm than good?: Photo Library of Congress
Are prisons doing more harm than good?: Photo Library of Congress

A few weeks ago, Time magazine ran an article on supermax prisons – ones where every prisoner is held in solitary confinement. The article noted that sensory deprivation is known to cause mental breakdowns, and asked if these prisoners weren't driving prisoners insane.

Blogger Steven K. Erickson of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation feels the comparison is inapt. The experience of the prisoner in solitary, though boring, is nothing like being sealed in a sensory deprivation tank.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

I agree that the comparison is poor.

I do imagine that behavioral science probably has allot to tell us about how we run our prisons and how to get what we want out of a prison and it's population. Unfortunately I don't think we have any sort of consensus on what the desired results should be:

  • punishment
  • rehabilitation
  • health of the prisoners
  • safety of the guards
  • safety of the outside population at large

At times these goals run counter to each other, like in these supermax prisons. Surely rehabilitation or the health of the prisoners is not high on the list in the design of the facilities. Maybe this is how it should be, but quite honestly I think a society that puts an entire population of prisoners in solitary confinement has no interest in these people as humans any longer.

posted on Mon, 02/19/2007 - 5:52pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I agree with Erickson, the comparison doesn't make sense and is absurd on its face.

posted on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 8:15pm

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