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California Super Max Prisons

Rise in crime and inmate population 02

California incarceration & prison funding rates 03

Super-max prison security measures 04

Changing U.S. attitudes toward crime 05

Ineffectiveness of Super-Max prisons 06

Brutality and inhumanity of Super-Max prisons 06

Eighth-Amendment and crime deterrence 07

Discussion, Recommendations & Conclusions 08

The rise in crime during the past three decades in American society has resulted in mandatory sentencing guidelines, tougher parole policies, stricter drug sentencing laws, and longer sentences are adding and keeping more criminals in prison for longer periods of time. In 1995 the Justice Department reported there were 1,012,851 people in federal and state prisons, a quadrupling of the inmate population since 1970 (Prison, 1995, 223).

The fear of crime in American society has resulted in an extraordinary expansion of the U.S. prison system over the past decade. More significantly, the prison boon has seen the advent of Super-Max Prisons. Super-Max prisons are designed to house offenders who are considered the worst-of-the-worst by the criminal justice system, super predators. Super-Max prisons, no-frills environments with cells without windows and little to no human contact for inmates for years at a time, have become a national model for high-tech security. As John Vanyur, an associate warden at a Super-Max facility, explains, “There are motion detectors in underground crawl spaces, 1,400 remote-controlled sliding steel doors, cameras at every nook and cranny, and 12-foot-chain-link fences topped with razor wire. Cells are designed so inmates cannot make eye contact with other prisoners” (Unruh, 1994, A1).

Despite California budgeting more than $5 billion for prison construction in 2000, instead of and at the expense of education, many argue Super-Max prisons are ineffective at best and at worst are a violation of inmates Eight Amendment...

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