The following is Part 1 in a three part series.
The current controversy surrounding the use of supermax prisons and solitary confinement has led to many individuals questioning how we got to the point that so many jurisdictions built and then abandoned 23 hour lockdown facilities. Specifically, the citizens of Colorado have questioned how a second supermax facility was built, opened, and now this 200 million dollar facility sits dormant. These types of facilities did not spring up out of nowhere, instead, they are a direct result of the increase in violence within the nation’s overcrowded prisons over the past 20 years (Haney, 2008). As the number of people sent to prison increased, these people were stuffed into a system that was not prepared for them, nor were these systems nimble enough to expand quickly. As a result, the corrections systems were pushed beyond capacity. Most jurisdictions reacted by double bunking virtually all beds, modifying program spaces into housing areas, and building new prisons. This rush to accommodate more inmates also necessitated the recruitment, hiring, and training of additional employees. To say these systems were under stress and operating from a reactionary mode would be an understatement. The stress upon the system was evident to the employees and inmates and the resulting increase in violence within the correctional facilities was inevitable.