THE EFFECT OF SUPERMAXIMUM SECURITY PRISONS ON AGGREGATE LEVELS OF INSTITUTIONAL VIOLENCE*

Authors


  • *

    The authors would like to thank Richard McCleary, Hans Toch, Roy King, Alan Vaux, Jack McKillip, William Wells and our reviewers for their comments on previous drafts of this manuscript. We would also like to thank Bill Gilbert, Retired Acting Manager of the Planning and Research Unit of the IDOC, for his help on this project. A version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, San Francisco, CA, November 2000. The data used in this study were collected as part of Grant 98-CE-VX-0021 from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

  • Chad S. Briggs is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is also a member of Applied Research Consultants (ARC) at SIUC, a vertical practicum group that provides research consulting services to local, state, and national organizations. His current research interests focus on the measurement of spirituality and religiosity, and the role that spirituality and religiosity play in crime and health outcomes. Mr. Briggs is a recipient of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Outstanding Thesis Award for 2001.

  • Jody L. Sundt is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Indiana University, Bloomington. She has published in the areas of correctional policy, religion in prison, offender change, public attitudes toward punishment, and white collar crime. Dr. Sundt's work has appeared in journals such as Justice Quarterly, Crime and Delinquency, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Journal of Criminal Justice, and The Prison Journal. Her current research focuses on the occupational experiences of correctional officers, the effectiveness of supermaximum security prisons, and religious coping and attribution.

  • Thomas C. Castellano is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Rochester Institute of Technology. His research foci include criminal justice policy analysis and correctional program evaluation. He has completed studies on correctional boot camps, parole reform in Illinois, and juvenile probation supervision. He has also studied and written on the politics of crime control, the implementation of sentencing reform laws, and trends in drug enforcement and related interventions. His publications have appeared in journals such as Law and Policy, American Journal of Police, Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, The Prison Journal, and in a variety of edited books.

Abstract

Supermax prisons have been advanced as means of controlling the “worst of the worst” and making prisons safer places to live and work. This research examined the effect of supermaxes on aggregate levels of violence in three prison systems using a multiple interrupted time series design. No support was found for the hypothesis that supermaxes reduce levels of inmate-on-inmate violence. Mixed support was found for the hypothesis that supermax increases staff safety: the implementation of a supermax had no effect on levels of inmate-on-staff assaults in Minnesota, temporarily increased staff injuries in Arizona, and reduced assaults against staff in Illinois.

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