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Super-maximum secure or “supermax” prisons are used to hold those prisoners whom prison authorities regard as the most problematic in the prison system. These facilities merge the 19th-century practice of long-term solitary confinement with 21st-century technology in ways that subject prisoners to unparalleled levels of isolation, surveillance, and control, usually for long duration, with the potential to inflict significant amounts of psychological harm. Despite a range of academic studies documenting the serious and potentially long-lasting psychological harm it may inflict, and several judicial opinions criticizing the risks it entails and significantly limiting its use, the supermax prison form persists. This entry describes the conditions in which prisoners in supermax confinement are held, characteristics of the supermax population, effects on prisoners of supermax confinement, and the ...

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