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Supermax facilities - Essay Example

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Have the U.S. prison systems developed appropriate correctional mechanisms nearly four decades after the Stanford Prison Experiment The issue crops up time and again as the process of dehumanization of prisoners through solitary confinement in supermax prisons continues…
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Order 254385 Supermax Facilities November 22, 2008 Supermax Facilities Have the U.S. prison systems developed appropriate correctional mechanisms nearly four decades after the Stanford Prison Experiment The issue crops up time and again as the process of dehumanization of prisoners through solitary confinement in supermax prisons continues. Why only prisoners The system has as bad an impact on the guards in terms of destroying their usual compassion and nobility encouraging the worst of human behavior in them. "Prisons are failed social-political experiments that continue to be places of evil" (Zimbardo, 1996). The reality cannot be worse for a prisoner in solitary confinement in a physically cramped condition for years with no social contact.
The supermax reforms require an environment to which the inmates can relate both physically and socio-psychologically. It has to provide them with recreations, social interactions and activities in a way that would not contain even the subtlest hint of force. We have to stop the crude system of continuous watching and monitoring of each movement of the prisoners that reinforce in them the feeling of being no better than caged animals. More space needs to be created in these "modern-day dungeons" (Pupovac, 2008) that have become unmanageable for the sheer number of prisoners. I suggest humane practices like touching the prisoner with bare hand by the guards and not

by wearing gloves and removal of the glass barrier to allow the prisoner to have a better communication with family and friends. These measures are necessary to convey to the prisoners that they are in the supermax for rehabilitation and not for cruel punishment.
Training of the correctional administrators should include the very relevance of the prison system with emphasis on developing processes to make it more humane. In spite of the transition from the Big House to Contemporary Prisons and evolving race relations policy, racial discrimination is still visible in U.S. prisons. Black and minority ethnic groups continue to be "over-represented in the prison population" (Ellis, 2004). When it comes to discrimination of the prisoners on the basis of sex, it is of utmost importance to guard the women prisoners from sexual abuse by male inmates or prison guards. This is an area to be specially taken care of in the training of male prison functionaries to prevent the imbalance arising in the context of the potential exploitation of female inmates by male guards (Amnesty International USA Report).
The de-individualization and dehumanization that a prisoner in supermax undergoes due to prolonged isolation and loss of contact with the outside world gets reflected in his behavioral pattern during and after the imprisonment and more often than not makes him unfit to come back to the mainstream of life. The system also encourages abusive behavior on the part of the guards who due to inadequate training perceive their intended role to be that of harassing and degrading the prisoners. In this backdrop, the psychological training of the prison guards or correctional officers assumes more relevance to bring about changes in their attitudes and perceptions about their roles. This if implemented can also remove from the system the other evils like racial and sexual discrimination.
References
Zimbardo Philip G., Christina Maslach, and Craig Haney (1996). "Reflections on the Stanford Prison Experiment" (Adapted from Thomas Blass's "Obedience to Authority. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000).
Pupovac Jessica. "Torture in our Own Backyards: The Fight against Supermax Prisons". 2008 (www.alternet.org).
Ellis Tom, et al. "Improving Race Relations in Prisons: What Works" (www.homeoffice.gov.uk). Online Report 2004.
Amnesty International USA Report (www.prisonpolicy.org). Read More
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