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NCJ Number: NCJ 240316     Find in a Library
Title: Parole, Snitch, or Die: California’s Supermax Prisons & Prisoners, 1987-2007
  Document URL: PDF 
Author(s): Keramet Reiter
Date Published: 07/2010
Page Count: 65
  Annotation: Today, California houses more than 3,300 prisoners in supermax conditions. Each month, between 50 and 100 people are released directly from these supermaxes onto parole. Using statistics obtained from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, this paper explores who these parolees are: what race are these prisoners, how long did they spend in solitary confinement, how frequently are they released, and how frequently are they returned to prison?
Abstract: Supermax prisons across the United States detain thousands in long-term solitary confinement, under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. They are prisons within prisons, imprisoning those who allegedly cannot be controlled in a general population prison setting. Most supermaxes were built in a brief period, between the late 1980s and the late 1990s. In 1988 and 1989, California opened two of the first and largest of the modern supermaxes: Pelican Bay and Corcoran State Prisons. In the current study, supermax-specific statistics are compared with publicly available state statistics describing the overall race and return-to-prison rates of parolees in California, revealing that supermax prisoners are disproportionately Latinos who have served long prison sentences, under severe conditions. The potential effects of supermax confinement on levels of violence within supermax institutions and throughout the state prison system are also explored, through the lens of prisoner death and assault statistics; no conclusive data establish a direct relationship between supermaxes and reductions in violence. Analysis of interviews with correctional department administrators about the original goals and purposes of the supermaxes further contextualizes these data, revealing that supermaxes today function rather differently than their designers envisioned 20 years ago. In sum, this research provides one of the first evaluations of how supermaxes function, in terms of whom they detain and for how long, and how these patterns relate to their originally articulated purposes. (Published Abstract)
Main Term(s): Corrections statistics
Index Term(s): Maximum security ; Parole statistics ; Trend analysis ; Inmate characteristics ; California
Sale Source: University of California, Berkeley
Institute for the Study of Social Change
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Country: United States of America
Language: English
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