States rethink Supermax prisons

States across the country are taking a hard look at "Supermax" prisons and the widespread use of solitary confinement at those facilities, citing high costs, lawsuits and new research that shows that the Supermax model doesn't reduce prison violence. Illinois will be closing its Supermax facility, saying $26 million cost of the prison - about $62,000 per inmate per year - could no longer be justified in a time of budget crisis. Mississippi has cut the number of prisoners kept in solitary confinement by nearly 90 percent, and Colorado reduced the number of prisoners in solitary by half in the past year and will shut down a Supermax facility that is only two years old. In Maine,the corrections department has adopted stricter requirements before sending prisoners to solitary, reducing the number of prisoners in its "segregation unit" from 130 to about 40 inmates. Joseph Ponte, commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections, says violent incidents in the general population have also decreased since the changes. "We didn't do the change for budget reasons," Ponte said, "We did it because we thought it was a more effective way to manage these inmates, and the proof's in the data. The data says that it's working." Read more...