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NCJ Number: 221855 Find in a Library
Title: Violence in the Supermax: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Journal: The Prison Journal  Volume:88  Issue:1  Dated:March 2008  Pages:144-168
Author(s): Kate King; Benjamin Steiner; Stephanie R. Breach
Date Published: March 2008
Page Count: 25
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined the mission, architecture, and organization of Pelican Bay State Prison, which houses California's "supermax" (maximum-security facility for inmates too disruptive and dangerous to be housed with the general inmate population), the training and mind-set of correctional officers who work at Pelican Bay, the inmate culture and mentality, and the findings of the Federal court in "Madrid v. Gomez" which addressed conditions in the secure housing unit (SHU).
Abstract: The SHU has 132 eight-cell pods. Cell doors are steel, covered with densely perforated mesh, and designed to inhibit inmate assault on staff. Individual cells contain toilets with no removable parts, a small shelf, a concrete stool, and a poured concrete slab molded into the wall for a bed. Most of the SHU inmates live in isolation. The Psychiatric Services Unit (PSU) holds inmates who exhibit signs of mental illness and inmates who are being screened for transfer to the SHU. This screening process is a direct result of Madrid v. Gomez, a 1995 case in which the Federal District Court ordered Pelican Bay to remove mentally ill inmates from the SHU. Currently, inmates headed for the SHU must be evaluated by mental health staff and held in the PSU if they are diagnosed as mentally unstable. In addition to completing courses at the Basic Correctional Officer Academy, correctional officers working at Pelican Bay complete a new employee orientation prior to working any assigned post at Pelican Bay. The authors argue that because inmates in the SHU are treated as violent and dangerous, this becomes their sense of identity. Further, the abusive conditions under which they live foster violent behavior. It is critical that correctional officers in the SHU view and treat inmates as human beings and not like caged, dangerous animals. 34 references
Main Term(s): Corrections policies
Index Term(s): California; Inmate segregation; Maximum security; Prison conditions; Violence causes
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