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U.S. Department of Justice
National Institute of Corrections

Supermax Prisons: Overview
and General Considerations

National Institute of Corrections
Morris L. Thigpen, Director
Susan M. Hunter, Chief
Prisons Division
Richard H. Franklin, Project Manager

Photos taken at Washington Department of Corrections’ Clallam Bay Corrections Center.

Supermax Prisons: Overview
and General Considerations
by
Chase Riveland

January 1999

This document was developed under Technical Assistance #98P4002 from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S.
Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily
represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Contents
Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v
Section 1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Section 2. Survey and Survey Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Section 3. History and Definition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Definition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Purpose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Admission/Release Criteria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Section 4. Operational Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Classification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Programming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Length of Stay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Human Contact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Medical Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Mental Health Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Food Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Property . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Hygiene and Sanitation Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Policies and Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Use of Force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Documentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Section 5. Staff Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Personnel Characteristics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Recruitment and Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Stress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Leadership and Supervision . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Section 6. Siting, Design, and Construction Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Co-Located vs. Separate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Site Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Design Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Construction Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Implications for Operating Costs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Further Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Section 7. Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
References and Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Appendix. Checklist of Considerations for an Extended Control Facility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

iii

Acknowledgments
Preparation for the writing of this monograph included several tasks. First, a group of
correctional administrators, experienced in the design and/or operation of supermax-type correctional
facilities, came together for a couple of days to share their experiences, opinions, and “lessons
learned” about these facilities. Thank you to the members of this group: Greg Hershberger, North
Central Regional Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons (former Warden of the Ad Max–Florence);
Ken McGinnis, Director, Michigan Department of Corrections (former Director, Illinois Department
of Corrections); Larry Meachum, Director, Office of Justice Programs/Corrections Program Office
(former director of three state corrections systems); James Spalding, Director, Idaho Department of
Corrections (former Director, Division of Prisons, Washington State); Mary West, Regional
Director, Colorado Department of Corrections; Frank Wood, former Director, Minnesota Department
of Corrections (former Warden, Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility); and Richard Franklin, NIC
Prisons Division (former Director of Prisons–Alaska). Their knowledge and input were invaluable.
Second, visits were made to several supermax facilities. Particular thanks go to Warden John
Hurley and staff at the federal Ad Max–Florence, CO; Superintendent Donice Neal and staff at the
Colorado State Penitentiary, Canon City, CO; and Warden Steve Cambra and staff at Pelican Bay
State Prison, Crescent City, CA. The author had earlier visited Oak Park Heights Correctional
Facility at Stillwater, MN; the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, IL; and three Intensive Management
Units in Washington State, as well as a number of segregation units around the country.
Numerous corrections professionals throughout the country were contacted in a follow-up
to an NIC Information Center survey. They were, without exception, generous with their time in
responding to questions.
Last, but certainly not least, appreciation is extended to the members of the NIC Advisory
Board who recognized an emerging issue and to those at NIC who followed up on that interest:
Morris Thigpen, Director; Larry Solomon, Deputy Director; and Susan Hunter, Prisons Division
Chief.

iv

Foreword
Units and programs for the management of dangerous and disruptive inmates have been a
source of controversy in the field of corrections for many years. Although correctional approaches
such as concentration, dispersal, and isolation are not new, the development of “supermax” prisons
is a relatively recent trend. More than 30 states are operating one or more units or facilities created
specifically for their corrections systems’ most threatening inmates.
This document discusses issues that are germane to planning and operating supermax units.
The author has more than 30 years of correctional experience, including planning and operating highsecurity prisons, and has served as director of two state departments of corrections.
We hope the document will contribute to the development of some common definitions
where there is now broad divergence, enhance understanding of the myriad issues related to the
management of violent and disruptive inmates, and provide benchmarks by which corrections
systems may examine their need for specialized prisons or units for high-risk inmates.

Morris L. Thigpen, Director
National Institute of Corrections

v

Section 1. Introduction
“Supermax” prisons—fad, trend, or wise investment?
Prisons historically have had “jails within prisons.”
Simply because people are in the controlled environment of a prison does not stop some of them from being
assaultive or violent, attempting to escape, inciting
disturbances, preying on weaker inmates, or otherwise
exhibiting disruptive behavior. Such people must be
removed from the general population of the prison
environment while they threaten any of those behaviors.
Order and safety are the priority objectives of any
correctional facility.
Prison administrators have traditionally placed persons exhibiting such behaviors into separate housing
units—generally called segregation, punitive segregation, disciplinary segregation, or some other name that
differentiates the unit from general population housing.
In recent years, particularly since the significant involvement of the federal courts in the 1970s and 1980s,
this has ordinarily been accomplished after due process
hearings and a finding of guilt. In disciplinary placements, the inmate would be given a specific amount of
time to serve based on the seriousness and frequency of
the violation(s). Other inmates who were repeat offenders or very serious violators of critical institutional rules
would be individually confined and segregated from the
general population until it was believed they no longer
threatened to prey, incite, assault, or escape. Isolated
housing has also been used for protective custody
inmates who might be at risk from other inmates as well
as for other “special” populations, such as inmates who
are on death row, HIV-positive, or mentally ill.
In the last few years, many jurisdictions across the
country have built or renovated prison facilities or units
with the express purpose of incarcerating inmates under
highly isolated conditions with severely limited access
to programs, exercise, staff, or other inmates. Other
jurisdictions are in various stages of considering or
planning such units or facilities though a faction made
up of corrections officials, inmates, and inmate advocates has raised concerns about, or even condemned,
them. They suggest they are “cruel and inhumane,”
susceptible to abuses, and damaging to the inmates
housed in them. Many corrections officials have defended the need for such facilities based on the perceived

“toughening” of the inmate population, increased gang
activity, the difficulty of maintaining order in severely
crowded prisons, and from experience gained over time
that suggests such units are beneficial.
Use of such facilities also represents a philosophical
change, moving from what Professor David Ward and
Mr. Norman Carlson, in their article entitled “SuperMaximum Custody Prisons in the United States,” termed
the “dispersion” approach to the “concentration” approach for the handling of troublesome inmates. Many
agencies in the past would spread their troublemakers
around the system or in various units of a prison and, in
some instances, house them in other states or with the
Federal Bureau of Prisons. This dispersal of problem
inmates would be an attempt to prevent them from
uniting in their misconduct and also allow staff at a
given institution to gain a measure of relief from dealing
with the same troublemakers over an extended period of
time. This approach also enabled prison officials to
break up cliques and gangs, but the success of the
approach was—and is—at least partially dependent on
the number and types of correctional facilities available
at various custody levels.
The more recent “concentration” approach creates
specific units or facilities to manage this troublesome
type of inmate in a high-security environment, generally
isolated from all other inmates. The premise is that general population prisons will be more easily and safely
managed if the troublemakers are completely removed.
In some places, these highly focused institutions
have been a component of “tough on crime” agendas
touted by elected officials, combating the assertions of
many observers that “prisons are like country clubs.” In
other jurisdictions, they have been proposed by
corrections officials to meet the existing or projected
need to isolate identified individuals or groups of
inmates from the general population to enhance the
management of their facilities. Whatever the motivation
for building such facilities, the number of them already
in operation, under construction, planned, or proposed
has increased significantly over the last several years.
More than 30 states report they are operating one or
more such units or facilities.
These units and facilities are significantly more ex-

1

pensive to build than traditional general population
prisons, due in part to the enhanced and extensive
security features on locks, doors, and perimeters; reinforced walls, ceilings, and floors; and, frequently, the
incorporation of advanced electronic systems and technology. Their operating costs have proven to be much
greater also. Providing meals and other services at individual cell fronts, multiple-officer escorts, and maintenance of elaborate electronic systems are examples of
things that add up quickly. The number of correctional
officers required to assure both internal and external
security, movement of inmates, security searches of
cells, and the delivery of food and other supplies and
services to individual cells generally drives staffing
ratios—and therefore operating costs—much higher than
those of general population prisons.
The cost, cost-benefit, operating, legal, and ethical/
moral issues of such facilities also raise a great deal of
debate. Little is known about the impact of locking an
inmate in an isolated cell for an average of 23 hours per
day with limited human interaction, little constructive
activity, and an environment that assures maximum control over the individual. Are potential negative effects
greater after an individual has been in such a facility for
three months, one year, three years, five years, or more?
Do extended isolation, absence of normal stimuli, and a
controlling environment result in damage to an inmate’s
psyche? Research in this area is sparse. That which does
exist tends to focus on the eventual recidivist criminal
behavior—either in or out of prison—rather than on the
potential psychological damage to the inmate.
Very little is known about the effect of these
facilities on inmates with existing mental illnesses or
developmental disabilities. Are certain types of mentally
ill inmates made worse? Can they be treated effectively
in this type of environment? Again, little research is
available to help us evaluate the efficacy of such
placements.
Proponents point to reductions in assaults on inmates and staff and other serious incidents throughout
the entire corrections system since the establishment of
such facilities. There exists little or no hard data comparing such perceived impacts on entire systems versus
the fiscal cost to gain such results, although anecdotal
information is common.

2

Generally, the overall
constitutionality of these
programs remains unclear.
The impact of supermax facilities on staff working
there has also been a subject of much discussion over
the last several years, ranging from the need to pick very
experienced staff to the heightened levels of stress that
they experience. Having to deal on a daily basis with
inmates who have proven to be the most troublesome
—in an environment that prioritizes human control and
isolation—presents line staff, supervisors, and facility
administrators with extraordinary challenges. Correctional administrators with experience in operating
supermax facilities talk about the potential for creating
a “we/they syndrome” between staff and inmates. The
nature and reputation of the inmate and frequently the
behavior combined with ultra-control and rigidity
magnify the tension between inmates and staff. When
there is little interaction except in control situations, the
adversarial nature of the relationships tends to be one of
dominance and, in return, resistance on both sides.
Generally, the overall constitutionality of these
programs remains unclear. As larger numbers of inmates
with a greater diversity of characteristics, backgrounds,
and behaviors are incarcerated in these facilities, the
likelihood of legal challenge is increased. Caution in
expanding the types and number of inmates placed in
these facilities will serve all parties well. A discussion
of legal issues relevant to supermax facilities is contained in a forthcoming National Institute of Corrections
(NIC) publication entitled Supermax Prisons: Legal
Issues and Considerations.
It is important then to assist agencies that are
operating such facilities in asking the right questions
about how they are operated. It is equally important to
assist jurisdictions that are planning such facilities to ask
the right questions about who they intend to put there,
what design considerations they should explore, and
how the facility will be operated. And, finally, it is
important to assist jurisdictions that are yet or will be
debating the issue, by providing as much information as
possible to help frame the debate. A checklist contained
in the appendix to this document was developed to guide
practitioners’ discussions.

Section 2. Survey and Survey Results
In 1997, the NIC Prisons Division and Information
Center released a Special Issues in Corrections paper
entitled “Supermax Housing: A Survey of Current
Practices,” based on a December 1996 survey of corrections systems nationwide. Responses were received from
the 50 state corrections departments; the Federal Bureau
of Prisons; the Correctional Service of Canada; and the
New York City, Cook County, and District of Columbia
Departments of Corrections. For the purposes of the
survey, supermax housing was defined as follows:
“A freestanding facility, or a distinct unit within a
freestanding facility, that provides for the management
and secure control of inmates who have been officially
designated as exhibiting violent or seriously disruptive
behavior while incarcerated. Such inmates have been
determined to be a threat to safety and security in
traditional high-security facilities and their behavior
can be controlled only by separation, restricted movement, and limited access to staff and other inmates.”
Survey results revealed that jurisdictions do not
share a common definition of supermax due to their
differing needs, classification criteria and methods, and
operational considerations. It became clear that what
may be “supermax” in one jurisdiction may not be in
another. Examples of how differently jurisdictions
define supermax and its operations follow.
C One jurisdiction with approximately 20,000 inmates
anticipates a need for supermax housing for 1% of
its inmate population. It currently operates a 50-bed
supermax unit within a maximum-security prison
and is planning an additional 150 to 175 beds.
Inmates housed in this unit have been unable or
unwilling to conform to the rules and regulations of
administrative segregation and have a history of
violent, assaultive, and/or disruptive behavior within
the corrections system. The minimum length of stay
in supermax is 18 months.
C Another jurisdiction with an inmate population
under 15,000 reports a need for supermax housing
for 5% of its inmate population. It reports as
“supermax” a 500-bed prison for inmates in
administrative segregation status. This facility

houses inmates in several levels of transition to
general population.
C A third jurisdiction, with about 30,000 inmates,
projects a need for 20% of its capacity to be
supermax beds. It currently operates two facilities,
with over 1,000 beds collectively, that it describes
as supermax and reports plans to nearly double that
number. These facilities house all new arrivals to
the prison system, who are placed in maximum
confinement requiring movement in restraints and
living restrictions akin to segregation conditions.
Inmates in the next lower custody classification live
in medium-security units under medium-custody
restrictions.
C Two other jurisdictions, one with an inmate population of more than 100,000 and the other with nearly
45,000 inmates, each report having a supermax
facility of approximately 500 beds designated to
house inmates who have threatened or injured other
prisoners or staff; possessed deadly weapons or
dangerous drugs; disrupted the orderly operation of
a prison; or escaped or attempted to escape in a
manner that involved injury, threat of life, or use of
deadly weapons. These jurisdictions report a need
for supermax housing for .5% to 1% of their inmate
populations.
The survey revealed that some supermax facilities
house only inmates who could not be controlled in
traditional administrative segregation conditions. Others
are an extension or expansion of traditional segregation
or administrative segregation and may house protective
custody and/or disciplinary segregation inmates. Yet
others house inmates who would reside in close-custody
general population in most other jurisdictions.
In some jurisdictions, mentally ill inmates are specifically excluded from the supermax population while, in
others, this level of control is considered necessary
because of the paucity of mental health resources available in the system. Some agencies include transition
programs in their supermax facilities that provide
opportunity to earn privileges similar to those available
to maximum or close general population inmates. A
supermax unit within a high-custody facility does not
usually have transition beds as would be found in a free-

3

standing supermax facility.
Several general conclusions can be drawn from the
survey:
C There is no universal definition of what supermax
facilities are and who should be placed in them.
C The current and projected reasons stated for needing
supermax space vary widely among jurisdictions,
including increased violence, legislative interest,
and availability of federal funds for such construction.
C The reported need for supermax beds ranges from
0% to 20% of the reporting jurisdictions’ total bed
capacity.
C Some jurisdictions use supermax facilities
interchangeably with disciplinary and/or
administrative segregation.
C The process for admission to and release from
supermax facilities varies widely, with the final
approving authority ranging from the institution
superintendent/warden to the director/commissioner of the department of corrections.
C Jurisdictions operating supermax housing vary
widely in the length of time they hold inmates there.
Some have determinate timeframes and some
indeterminate.

4

• The inclusion or exclusion of mentally ill and
developmentally disabled inmates differs greatly
among jurisdictions.
C Programs available in supermax facilities range
from none, to cell front only, to televised programming, to some congregate programming.
C Some jurisdictions provide transition programming
to assist those leaving the extended control unit,
while others do not.
Supermax as defined in the survey may exist in
relatively few jurisdictions. The survey results suggest
that in some jurisdictions “supermax” may be primarily
a correctional architecture term that describes a type of
prison construction and a decision to concentrate higher
risk inmates while, in other jurisdictions, it may be a
new custody or confinement status associated with a
changing inmate profile. The “supermax count” in the
reporting jurisdictions includes inmates ranging from the
most intractable to those who would reside in close or
maximum general population in some other jurisdictions. The lack of a universal definition suggests the
need for further examination and determination of
whether “supermax” should be a custody/confinement
status or a facility/unit security designation.

Section 3. History and Definition
History
Various versions of high-custody and high-control
prisons have existed in this country over the years.
Prisons dating back to the earliest settlers operated a
variety of isolation cells or units commonly referred to
as “the hole” and generally used as a form of extra
punishment for those who violated a prison’s rules
repeatedly or egregiously.
Commonly recognized as the forerunner of today’s
supermax facilities, Alcatraz became the high-security
penitentiary for “habitual” and “intractable” federal
prisoners in 1934. Until its closure in 1963, Alcatraz
housed the federal government’s most highly publicized
offenders, its most sophisticated prison escape artists
and riot leaders, and its most assaultive inmates.
Alcatraz was closed in an era in which rehabilitation
had become the primary rationale for penal confinement.
The “concentration model” was abandoned, and inmates
at Alcatraz were dispersed to federal penitentiaries
across the country. Then, in 1978, the level of assaults
and violence directed toward staff and prison unrest
prompted the development of a special high-security
control unit at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois.
In 1983, the deaths of two officers and an inmate
resulted in this prison’s conversion to indefinite administrative segregation, or lockdown. Marion housed the
Bureau of Prisons’ most violent and troublesome prisoners until the opening of the Administrative Maximum
Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, in 1994.
Although many of the state corrections systems have
historically targeted one or more of their prisons for the
most threatening prisoners, seldom have those prisons
operated on a total lockdown basis as normal routine.
Even prisons designated as maximum security have
generally allowed movement, inmate interaction, congregate programs, and work opportunities.

They have become political symbols
of how “tough” a jurisdiction has
become.

As correctional populations have escalated in recent
years, prison crowding has become the norm in most
jurisdictions. Most prisons across the country have been
operating at well over 100% of design capacity. This
crowding aggravated by the increase in street gang
members, drug offenders, mentally ill, and youthful offenders has stressed the prisons and corrections systems.
Maintaining order has been a daunting challenge for
prison wardens and corrections system administrators.
One response on the part of prison officials in many
jurisdictions, in attempting to maintain control, has been
the introduction of supermax units or facilities.
The trend toward proliferation of supermax housing
would appear to be at least partially related to the belief
that maintaining order in the larger part of a prison—or
an entire corrections system—is enhanced by isolating
the most serious and chronic troublemakers from the
general population. In fact, many corrections officials
state that the mere threat of such units is preventative in
nature—that many inmates who might otherwise be
disruptive are not, due to their fear of placement there.
The fact that such facilities often are politically and
publicly attractive (despite the considerable cost to build
and operate them) also has had a role in their increase
nationwide. They have become political symbols of
how “tough” a jurisdiction has become. In some places,
the motivation to build a supermax has come not from
corrections officials, but from the legislature and—in at
least one instance—the governor.

Definition
As supermax prisons have increased in number,
been reported on by the media, and gained popularity
with the public, a variety of names have emerged around
the country to describe them. Special housing unit,
maxi-maxi, maximum control facility, secured housing
unit, intensive housing unit, intensive management unit,
and administrative maximum penitentiary are but a few
of the names used. The term “supermax” is the one
heard most frequently in the media and in the field of
corrections—the “generic descriptor.” Yet, as learned
from the NIC survey, the term is applied to a wide
variety of facilities and programs handling an equally
wide variety of inmate populations.

5

For purposes of this report, we will describe supermax as “a highly restrictive, high-custody housing unit
within a secure facility, or an entire secure facility, that
isolates inmates from the general prison population and
from each other due to grievous crimes, repetitive
assaultive or violent institutional behavior, the threat of
escape or actual escape from high-custody facility(s), or
inciting or threatening to incite disturbances in a
correctional institution.” The term “facility” is used
throughout this report for brevity to refer to either or
both a unit within a facility or an entire separate facility.
It is assumed that such a facility would be operated with
the majority of services and programs provided at cell
front, that movement from the cell would be in restraints
with multiple-officer escort, and that overall security
would be the highest level available in an institution or
the corrections system.
It is important for agencies to develop a working
definition if they want to properly evaluate an existing
supermax facility or if they are planning to build and/or
operate one. Differentiating these programs from traditional segregation units is essential if they are to be
planned and operated efficiently and defensibly. Ambiguity in definition inhibits the ability of the corrections
profession to develop sound models that may be readily
adapted across jurisdictions with relative assurance that
they will meet legal challenges, humane expectations,
and generally accepted professional standards. In
actuality, formal standards (such as those promulgated
by the American Correctional Association and American
Bar Association for correctional facilities) do not exist
for supermax facilities specifically.

custody populations with extended control populations
runs the risk of overkill in the custody and security
provided to inmates who have traditionally been handled
without such rigorous and expensive control features.
Few inmates serving short disciplinary segregation sanctions require the 22-hour-plus lockdown status, the
privilege reductions, and the multiple-officer movement
practices that extended control units generally employ.

Admission/Release Criteria
Critical to developing a working definition for an
extended control facility is determining who will be in
it. “Extended control” suggests that inmates who have
demonstrated that they are chronically violent or
assaultive, who present a serious escape risk, or who
have demonstrated a capacity to incite disturbances or
otherwise are threatening the orderly operation of the
general population institution may become target
populations. Thought should be given to limiting the use
of extended control housing to inmates who present a
“clear and present danger.”
In clearly defining the population that is appropriate
for extended control housing, agencies should also identify housing and placement criteria for inmates for
whom lesser levels of security and custody may be
appropriate, including:
C those who are uncontrollable due to mental illness,
C the incorrigible who are subject to frequent
disciplinary segregation,
C those in need of protective custody,

Purpose
The combined best thinking of professionals who
have administered, developed, operated, and/or planned
such programs would suggest their purpose should be
for extended control of inmates known to be violent,
assaultive, major escape risks, or likely to promote
disturbances in a general population prison and that the
criteria for admission to and release from such a facility
should be explicit and narrow. The use of these
facilities for problem inmates for whom lesser levels of
control may be satisfactory may deprive them of
freedoms, education, treatment, and work opportunities
from which they could reap significant benefits and may
subject them to pressures detrimental to their physical
and psychological health.
Mixing disciplinary segregation and protective

6

C those in need of administrative confinement for
reasons that may require separation but not extended
control,
• those requiring observation because of unacceptable
or problematic adjustment.
Use of extended control housing for inmates who
have only been situationally assaultive, or who commit
minor (albeit frequent) infractions, or who cannot
control their behavior due to mental illness will simply
consume very expensive high-security beds with little
overall operational impact.
Prison staff have always had to deal with uncooperative inmates. They continuously test the limits,

frequently break minor rules, and consume an inordinate
amount of staff time. As comforting as it may be to an
institution staff to be rid of such persons, the use of
costly high-custody beds for this population is probably
not only inefficient, but arguably overkill. These facilities are inappropriate for the nuisance inmate.
Underlying the challenge of who to put in such
facilities is the question of whether placement should
rely solely on actual behavior or also include individuals
who could be troublesome. Attempting to use predictive
criteria based on subjective information has led historically to unsatisfactory and possibly indefensible results.
Most agencies, therefore, base their criteria on objective
behavior-driven information—although that behavior
may include only the threat to commit or incite violence,
or to escape.
In addition to the target population for which
extended control housing is designed, consideration
must also be given to the inmates other than the target
population who may reside in the facility. Terms of
definition are frequently applied to both the facility and
the residents. Often, a labeling process takes place and
inmates housed in supermax facilities are known,
counted, and treated as supermax inmates even though
they may be in a transition program or assigned to
another program in the facility.

These facilities are inappropriate for
the nuisance inmate.
In large extended control facilities in which a portion of the population is close or maximum custody—
with some general population movement capabilities
—all inmates are often viewed as supermax or at least
more difficult than “regular” maximum-custody inmates
in other facilities. They may even view themselves as
supermax inmates, and staff may subject them to
controls and surveillance well beyond what their
particular status demands, ascribing to them levels of
threat far beyond reality. Viewing inmates who are not
actually in extended control status as such may be a selffulfilling prophecy that diminishes progress or leads to
a deterioration of behavior on the part of the inmates.
Release criteria must also be given serious thought
by the agency operating an extended control facility.
Whether based on explicit timeframes, behavioral
expectations, or combinations of both, it is important
that the inmate be informed as to the conditions under
which he/she may be released. With the goal of safely
transferring inmates to lesser custody as soon as
feasible, facility and central administration staff should
conduct regular reviews of each inmate to assess the
necessity of retaining him/her in the extended control
environment. This becomes even more essential as a
sentence nears its end and the inmate may be released to
the community.

7

Section 4. Operational Issues
Many management and operational issues gain
heightened importance in extended control facilities.
Some of these are:
C The criteria by which inmates are admitted to or
excluded from the facilities,
C How inmates are managed,
C The services they are provided,
C The manner in which they are expected to behave,
C The amount of human contact they have,
C The allowable use of force and control of the use
of force,
C The criteria and process for release from extended
control.
The potential for abuse in an environment that
prioritizes control of human beings, who by definition or
in reality are the “worst of the worst,” can be mitigated
by thoughtful attention to the manner in which such
facilities are operated.
The agency and facility mission and objectives,
which include humane treatment, reduction of anger and
violence, and reintegration into general population,
should be clearly stated and affirmed in operations,
programs, and staff training. The agency planning to
operate such a facility, or evaluating its existing operation, should recognize the critical importance of the
extended control mission and operational practices,
including those discussed next.

Classification
Most prison classification systems have evolved
over the last two decades from very subjective means of
classifying inmates to relatively objective systems. This
move toward objectivity has occurred mainly to avoid
unbridled discretion and to incorporate into classification instruments the philosophical and policy preferences significant to the agency.
Typically the classification process will allow for

8

the orderly determination of the level of custody an
inmate requires, based on criminal and behavioral
history; the medical, psychological, and programmatic
needs and limitations of the inmate; and the type of
institution that can best meet those considerations.
Objective classification systems have not only helped
correctional agencies defend their placement decisions
when challenged, but have helped them attempt to place
individuals in the least-restrictive facility—and therefore presumably the least costly. Objective classification
systems also generally provide inmates with a known
path for moving to less secure facilities and incentives
for behaving appropriately, working, and pursuing improvement programs.
It is therefore wise for agencies that are operating or
planning to operate extended control facilities to assure
that the process for identifying inmates for placement
there is at least consistent with and preferably an
integral part of the agency’s classification process. This
will probably assist in legal defense of the placements as
well as help avoid the overuse—or inappropriate use
—of very expensive housing. Inherent in using the classification process to determine an inmate’s eligibility for
extended control is that the criteria for admission are
clearly articulated, non-ambiguous, and consistent with
the agency’s disciplinary process.
Many agencies operate under administrative rule or
policy that provides a mechanism and authorization for
placement of an inmate in administrative confinement or
segregation when he/she is deemed to be a threat to the
safety, security, or orderly operation of the institution.
This is often a non-disciplinary status—that is, the
placement is not a penalty with a determinate time
affixed to it, but is based on a pattern or history of
dangerousness or unconfirmed but reliable evidence of
pending disruption.
With the advent of extended control facilities and
specific criteria for placement, agencies should carefully
consider what impact the need or requirement to provide
objective or behaviorally based criteria for admission
there would have on administrative segregation decisions. In many agencies, administrative segregation of
an inmate who may be a threat to safety, security, or
order is an approved remedy without application of
objective criteria or verified misconduct. Wardens peri-

odically invoke this procedure as a preventative or protective measure based on strong belief that an inmate’s
continued presence in the general population may create
a threat to safety and security. Following periodic
reviews, segregation of such inmates may then be continued, despite exemplary behavior in segregation,
because of the strong belief that the inmate’s violent
proclivities and/or intentions to harm others or threaten
security of the facility when given the opportunity
remain unchanged.

ior, knowledge, or skills.

It would be prudent to have the final
authority for approving admission
to, retention in, and release from
extended control rest at the highest
levels of the organization.

Hans Toch and Kenneth Adams, in The Disturbed
Violent Offender, discuss the management of offenders
who are viewed as having mental health deficiencies and
who are violent. They differentiate between the disturbed violent offender and the disturbed violent
offender. Herein lies one of the numerous classification
difficulties related to the protection of others by
segregation of offenders with a history and potential of
violence. Diagnosis, prediction, risk assessment, and
identification of causal factors to violent acting out often
defy objective criteria and invite a significant degree of
subjectivity. Prison administrators should be cognizant
of that difficulty in defining admission, release, and
length of stay criteria.

Education is provided in a variety of ways in
extended control facilities around the country. Some
agencies allow television in the cells and provide
education or self-help programs through intra-institution
cable. Some supplement this with instructors providing
assistance through cell-front visits. Others allow small
congregate classes in day rooms or special rooms in
close proximity to the housing units. Some provide no
educational programs at all.

Once an inmate is placed in an extended control
facility, specific classification review periods are advisable, either chronological or event-driven, or both. The
reviews should provide the inmate with the opportunity
to offer information that would lead to consideration of
a reduced custody placement and to be informed of the
conditions that must be met for such consideration.

Exercise in most extended control facilities is
limited to three to seven hours (in one-hour intervals)
per week, generally in an indoor space or small, secure,
attached outdoor space. Usually exercise is provided to
one inmate at a time and the inmate is escorted in
restraints by two or more correctional officers to and
from the exercise space. Congregate exercise occurs
only in transition programs provided in some facilities.

It would be prudent to have the final authority for
approving admission to, retention in, and release from an
extended control facility rest at the highest levels of the
organization. This would preclude—or minimize—
potential abuse of the policy criteria for admission and
release and also raise the level of organizational consciousness of the seriousness of such placements.

Programming
Decisions on what types of programming to provide
and how should be well thought out. Obviously the more
programs available to the inmates, the less vulnerable
the facility will be to legal challenge and the more likely
that inmates’ negative reaction to isolation will be
ameliorated. Programming for this purpose includes
education, work opportunities, exercise, and various
other programs aimed at improving the inmates’ behav-

Most allow no work activities, although they might
provide some work opportunities in transition programs
for inmates being prepared to leave the extended control
environment.

Agencies evaluating their extended control facilities
or planning new ones should pay close attention to
exercise and how they provide it. It is a critical issue not
only because of the human, health, and legal issues it
presents, but for the staffing cost and security implications. The number of staff required to move each
inmate from a cell to the exercise space and back three
to seven times each week is considerable. As these
events also constitute the most frequent time that the
inmate is out of his/her cell, they also present the most
likely opportunity for resistive or combative behavior or
the exchange or introduction of contraband.
Most other types of programming offered in
extended control facilities, such as substance abuse
treatment, anger management, and vocational training,
are provided only through television, correspondence, or

9

written materials. Several agencies operating transition
units offer congregate programming, generally concentrating on education, substance abuse treatment, and
behavior control (such as anger management).
Agencies planning or evaluating extended control
facilities would be well served to thoughtfully address
the provision of inmate programs. Legal, human, financial, and security implications attach to each of the
choices made. The choices can range from an approach
of no more programming than is legally required to
provision of as much programming as resources allow,
consistent with the security needs of the facility. The
choices made will set the tone for the overall nature of
the extended control environment and will inevitably
have an impact on the quality of the program.

Religion
Providing for the inmate to practice his/her religion
poses particular challenges to extended control facility
administrators, since the entry of any person to the
housing unit presents additional opportunity for the
introduction of contraband. Agencies operating extended
control facilities usually provide for religious programming through cell-front visits by staff chaplains;
approved clergy; or, in some instances, approved religious volunteers. Several agencies provide religious
services and information through closed-circuit television available in the cells. A few allow small groups of
inmates to participate in congregate services, normally
in or immediately adjacent to the housing unit.
Extended control facilities also tend to have somewhat abbreviated lists of approved religious articles that
inmates are allowed to keep in their cells. Those
planning such programs should review their intended
religious articles allowance lists and try to strike a
balance between actual security needs and the inmate’s
right to practice his/her religion.

Length of Stay
The length of stay in extended control facilities
varies greatly across jurisdictions. Some agencies have
determinate periods of time to be served, but most have
relatively or wholly indeterminate placements. The
amount of time served may depend upon the perceived
risk the inmate presents, behavior changes, the amount
of time left in the inmate’s sentence, changes in the inmate’s physical or psychological condition, the inmate’s
willingness to renounce gang ties, or other factors.

10

The ongoing agency need for extended control beds
requires some movement of inmates out of extended
control. To the extent possible, such movement should
be based upon clear criteria related to the factors that led
to the inmate’s placement there. While specific categories of offense or violation, such as homicide, may merit
a far-distant date for possible return to lesser custody,
most inmates should be considered for reduced custody
in the shorter term. The development of release criteria
that enable estimating length of stay is of practical
importance in maintaining bed availability and projecting the agency’s bed needs for operating and capital
budget planning purposes.
It is critical that the agency planning or evaluating
an extended control facility consciously address the
length-of-stay issue. Duration of certain types of confinement, particularly if that confinement is atypical of
the norm, has frequently been one of the yardsticks
courts have used in evaluating the constitutionality of a
program.
Presumably, once the threat that the inmate presented to other people or the orderly operation of the
institution has passed, there is no need for him/her to be
retained in an extended control environment. Ideally,
specific criteria should be developed, along with a
process for assessment, that would allow the inmate to
transition from an extended control facility to lesser
levels of custody and security. Many agencies provide
several levels of control and privileges in the same
facility, offering the inmate the opportunity to display
the ability to adjust and behave in a less-controlled
environment. Failure to provide some transition or
release mechanism will not only create a sense of
hopelessness among many of the inmates, but will cause
the overuse of costly high-security beds.
Corrections professionals agree that, ideally, dangerous inmates should not be released directly to the community from extended control and that transition and
pre-release programming would prepare them for
reintegration. It is difficult, however, to balance the
inmate’s need for such programming with the agency’s
responsibility to provide a safe and secure work
environment for its staff. An approaching release date
seldom, if ever, changes the degree of threat to staff for
the better. Most often, inmates who are dangerous pose
greater threat to staff as the term of control by the
agency decreases. An agency’s policies should address
this very important but difficult issue.

Human Contact
One of the most frequent criticisms of extended
control facilities is the degree to which the inmate is
isolated from contact with other human beings. In the
typical facility, cell doors, unit doors, and shower doors
are operated remotely from a control center. Human
contact may be limited to instances when medical staff,
clergy, or a counselor stops at the front of the inmate’s
cell during rounds. Physical contact may be limited to
being touched through a security door by a correctional
officer while being placed in restraints or having
restraints removed. The bulk of verbal communication
may occur through intercom systems. Further minimization of human contact may result from the use of
technologies such as cameras; remote listening devices;
and remote control devices for televisions, water, and
lights.

Specific scheduling of different staff who check on
the inmate regularly and provide some verbal interaction
opportunity will help mitigate the “we/them” syndrome
that is inherent to an extended control environment.
Special training in techniques for communicating with
this population is advisable for all staff.

Medical Services
One of the most vulnerable parts of any correctional
operation is the medical care provided to an inmate
population. The less freedom an inmate has to seek out
medical assistance, the greater the burden on corrections
officials to assure that adequate medical care is available
and provided. Agencies planning or evaluating extended
control facilities must assure that they adequately
provide for routine and emergency medical care and that
policies, procedures, and training assure that all staff are
alert to actual medical problems and needs.
Logistically, providing appropriate medical care in
an extended control facility is a special challenge due to
the inability of the inmate to move unescorted to a
central medical infirmary. Most facilities use a triage
process for providing medical services, involving regular cell-front visits by medical personnel to administer
medication and listen to inmates’ medical concerns.
Many facilities regularly schedule medical personnel to
perform simple examinations in small exam rooms
located in or near the housing units. More extensive
medical examinations or procedures usually require
movement to a central location within the facility, to a
different facility, or even to a community setting. This
requires a significant investment of custody staff time
—generally two or three correctional officers accompanying the inmate, who is in restraints, at all times.

Care should be taken by those planning and
evaluating extended control facilities to balance the need
for security, safety, and efficiency with the need to
provide adequate human interaction between the inmate
and selected staff. Adequate visiting programs for
approved visitors—albeit in non-contact visiting areas
—can at least partially compensate for the absence of
human contact in the housing unit. The frequency of
visiting varies greatly among extended control facilities,
ranging from one hour to several hours per month. Some
facilities tie the frequency of visits to the phase of the
program that the inmate is in, with more frequent visits
allowed as the inmate progresses through the phases.

The inclusion of modern equipment and technology
in the facility—such as specially designed video equipment that allows conducting medical examinations from
a remote site (telemedicine)—has proven effective in
some jurisdictions. Such technology can reduce the need
for inmate transport and thereby reduce the cost of
custody staff and enhance security.

Mental Health Services
Prominent in recent legal challenges to extended
control facilities are issues around the provision of
mental health services. As the percentage of mentally ill
offenders represented in correctional populations has
grown over the last decade, corrections systems have
had to deal with a wide range of mental illnesses and

11

disorders, frequently without adequate resources. Inmates displaying self-destructive, assaultive, or aberrant
behavior often end up being treated solely as disciplinary cases and, in many corrections systems, become
prime candidates for extended control. Other inmates
become mentally ill while in the extended control environment.
Most corrections officials will agree that the inmate
with multiple diagnoses (for example, mental illness,
addiction, and violence) poses significant problems in
the orderly operation of a prison. It is an unfortunate
circumstance that housing, program, and offender
management decisions must often be based on options
available (driven by the agency’s resources) and system
needs (safe, secure, and orderly operations), rather than
through a prioritization of the multiply diagnosed
offender’s needs. An offender with a serious history of
violence and current propensities that suggest probable
reoccurrence of such behaviors might possibly be
housed in an extended control environment—absent the
availability of a secure mental health treatment unit.
Agencies with extended control facilities manage
this population in different ways. Some—generally
larger agencies that have the numbers to support
consolidation—have created separate segregation units
specifically for offenders diagnosed as mentally ill.
Others attempt to provide services within the extended
control facility. Yet others exclude mentally ill offenders from placement there, at least those who have been
clinically diagnosed and/or are receiving psychotropic
medications. It is important that prison officials examine
their options in managing inmates with special needs.
If extended control becomes the housing of choice
(or of necessity) for these populations, care must be
taken to assure that services are provided to address their
needs. It is critical that, at a minimum, provision is made
for mental health professional staff to regularly visit
each inmate housed there to assess for signs of mental
illness. Provision then must be made to assure that
treatment is available in the facility or elsewhere.
Security measures in most extended control facilities
make such assessment and treatment programs difficult
and expensive. To facilitate recognition of symptoms of
mental illness, early referral, and proper management,
many agencies are now providing basic mental health
training to correctional officers.
Insofar as possible, mentally ill inmates should be
excluded from extended control facilities. Each inmate

12

being considered for such a facility should have a mental
health evaluation. Although some mentally ill offenders
are assaultive and require control measures, much of the
regime common to extended control facilities may be
unnecessary, and even counterproduc-tive, for this
population.

Food Service
Correctional administrators have learned over the
years that providing adequate, nutritionally balanced,
properly cooked food is essential—both for the successful management of a prison and to meet constitutional
minima when conditions of confinement are challenged.
Extended control facilities provide the ultimate
correctional food service challenge. Normally meals are
prepared remotely from the extended control housing
unit(s). They then must be moved to the housing units
and distributed to each cell. A variety of cart and tray
systems are currently in use, but all are staff intensive
and time consuming. Care must be taken that food is
maintained at the proper temperature and that proper
hygiene precautions are followed during distribution and
cleanup. In most facilities this burden falls entirely on
staff—normally the custody staff—and can be a daily
source of conflict and resistance if the food and/or
procedures are inadequate.

All of the other complexities of correctional food
service should also be considered by those evaluating an
extended control facility or planning a new one. These
include quantity and quality control, religious diets,
medical diets, and presentation. Adherence to normally
accepted dietary standards should be maintained, and
food service and facility managers should monitor this.

Property
The property an inmate is allowed to possess always
poses a challenge for prison administrators, but even
more so in extended control facilities. On one hand,
allowing the inmate to maintain certain types of property (such as a television, radio, and recreational reading
materials) would help mitigate the absence of other
stimuli. The more property allowed, however, the more
difficult it is for staff to conduct thorough searches. A
large amount of property in housing units makes the
introduction and concealment of contraband much
easier. It may present a fire hazard, as well as make
maintenance of sanitation standards more difficult.

Incentives, disincentives, or both should be incorporated as part of the facility’s policies to encourage
inmates to maintain acceptable levels of sanitation in
their cells. Policies should be developed to govern the
distribution of materials and equipment to inmates for
cleaning their cells.
Efficient, hygienic laundry services must be available, and routine linen and clothing exchange procedures maintained and monitored. Excess linen and
clothing in the cells becomes both a sanitation and
facility budget issue and makes it difficult to conduct
good cell searches.

Careful evaluation of property to be allowed should
strike a balance between the security, safety, and sanitation needs of the facility and a property allowance that
supports reasonable human dignity. Particular attention
must be given to items that could present a security
threat: razors, pens, matches, etc. Agencies vary widely
in what and how much they allow. Some allow commissary purchases, some allow them only after certain
phases of the program have been completed, and some
disallow such purchases entirely. Critical to planning or
evaluation efforts is that such decisions must be commensurate with the level of risk presented by the specific
population of the facility.

Hygiene and Sanitation Issues
Inmate personal hygiene and cleanliness of the
facility are important when planning or evaluating
extended control options. Most facilities have toilet and
washbasin fixtures in each cell and showers located
centrally within the housing units. Two or more
correctional officers move inmates individually in
restraints to the shower (normally three or more times
per week). This is a staff-intensive process that presents
an opportunity for resistance, combativeness, or contraband introduction. Recent designs for extended control
facilities include a shower in each cell with the water
remotely controlled, thereby eliminating the need for
staff-intensive escort to central showers.

Sanitation of other parts of the facility and other
hygiene issues must also be taken into account. Since
extended control inmates are restricted to their cells
unless in restraints and under escort, they cannot
perform cleaning or other facility maintenance work in
common areas that inmates in a general population
prison would typically do. Accommodation must then be
made for staff to maintain these areas.

Security
Security issues clearly become the focal point of
most extended control facilities. If indeed the inmate
population held there is limited to those who have

13

displayed a propensity for violence or escape, or who
present a threat of disruption within a prison, then strict
control of all materials, information, and personnel
entering or leaving the facility becomes crucial to its
orderly and safe operation.
Many security issues are dependent upon the physical design, and proper design can go a long way in
ameliorating many security problems. However, the
greatest contribution to a sound security program is an
alert, well-trained, professional staff. With few exceptions, escapes, disturbances, and homicides in extended
control facilities were the result of human error.
The routine inherent to these facilities can become
disarming, leading to potential breakdown in critical
procedures. Some agencies, by policy or scheduling,
attempt to lessen the effects of routine by rotating staff
in the housing units, between units, or into other parts of
the facility. Frequent shakedowns of the cells and areas
of the facility that inmates may use are essential and
require extensive staff training and supervision if they
are to be conducted properly.
Technology can contribute to a sound security program. A variety of options are now available for staff
and visitor screening, and new types of scanners and
detectors for examining property and mail. New types of
perimeters, security doors, and control mechanisms can
enhance security. Particular attention should be paid to
those technologies that not only qualitatively improve
the facility’s security, but also reduce staffing requirements.

Policies and Procedures
Particularly critical to the operation of extended
control facilities are policies that enumerate what must
be done (or not be done) and procedures that dictate how
things should be done. The policies should clearly state
the correctional agency’s philosophy and expectations
for the operation of the extended control facility, along
with explicit procedures for how and when which things
should be accomplished.
Staff must be thoroughly trained on policies and
procedures that apply to them and be aware of who, if
anyone, can make exceptions. The policies should
elaborate on the behavior expected of both staff and
inmates, as well as between staff and inmates. Operational difficulties in the past generally were the result of
inadequate policies and procedures, failure to adequately

14

train staff, or both.
Communication of changes in policies and procedures must be quick and thorough. As in other correctional settings, the legality of operations in extended
control facilities will be measured against the facility’s
or agency’s own policies and procedures and whether
staff performance is consistent with those policies and
procedures.
A formal, official, frequent, and ongoing updating of
policies and procedures is essential. Informal exceptions, handwritten modifications, and memoranda at
variance with existing policies or procedures quickly
render them ineffective, if not useless. If operations or
incidents are challenged in court, the facility’s policies
and procedures will become its greatest ally or greatest
adversary.
Routine security audits are excellent tools to ensure
compliance with established policies and procedures. A
comprehensive audit program and well-designed system
checks that assess staff response, equipment, and operational practices will help assure a strong security system.
Such a program will also maintain the knowledge and
skill levels of the staff and reinforce their attentiveness.

Use of Force
The use of force is inevitable in extended control
settings. Care must be taken in planning or evaluating
these facilities to ensure that policies and procedures,
techniques, philosophies, and controls of the use of force
are thoroughly analyzed. Although a few agencies have
officers in control booths armed with firearms and/or
gas, most rely on higher numbers of staff as their
primary means of physical control, supplemented by a
variety of nonlethal weapons.
A case can be made that force is used each time an
inmate is moved out of the cell. Typically, two or more
officers handcuff the inmate (often supplemented by leg
or waist chains) before he/she is allowed out of the cell.
The inmate is then moved under the supervision of two
or three officers—in some agencies by hands-on escort
—to the destination point. Such instances are referred to
as routine use of force.

Operational policies should require 1) thorough documentation of the use of force through written reports by
each staff member present during the use of force, 2)
videotaping of each planned use of force, 3) periodic
debriefing and examination of practices with involved
staff, 4) regular review of all use-of-force incidents by
facility administrators, and 5) mandated review of documentation and videotapes of specified levels of use of
force by higher authority.
Some agencies are now installing constantly operating panoramic video cameras in their housing units
and corridors, taping everything that occurs there. This
not only acts as a control measure to prevent abuse or
violation of policies and procedures, but documents staff
and inmate activities to forestall unfounded claims by
inmates.

Documentation

Other uses of force that must be anticipated include
cell extractions; controlling self-destructive behavior;
and dealing with combative, resistive, and assaultive
behaviors. Although few facilities have experienced
large-scale disturbances, all must be prepared for such
an event and be able to respond with specialized, welltrained tactical teams.
Critical to use-of-force planning or evaluation are
policies and procedures that clearly articulate what level
of authority is required for each level of force used, the
steps that must be taken to reduce or eliminate the need
for using force, the type of force to be used, and the
steps to be taken once the force has been applied.

Routine documentation of the activities and events
in extended control facilities, including videotaping cell
extractions or other planned uses of force, is essential
for several reasons:
C It allows supervisory and administrative staff to
monitor the day-to-day performance of staff.
C It reinforces staff observance of policies and
procedures and the need for performing certain
tasks and activities.
C It creates a record of the completion of required
tasks and exceptions to the normal routine that can
be used in the event of a legal challenge.
C It allows continuity and communication across
work shifts.
It is particularly important to consistently document
hearings; use of force; medical and dental services
provided; mental health evaluations and contacts; and
access to personal hygiene facilities, exercise, and
religious and legal resources. It is critical that staff
document an inmate’s refusal of a proffered service or
opportunity, such as a meal, medical or dental care, use
of facilities and resources, etc.

15

Section 5. Staff Issues
Personnel Characteristics
Corrections officials who have operated extended
control facilities agree that, ideally, staff should possess
the characteristics of maturity, intelligence, and good
judgment, and—at least for custody positions—be
physically capable of performing the rigorous duties
required of them. They should be even-tempered,
consistent, and capable of respecting diversity in the
inmate population. The difficulty of working day-to-day
in an environment that is a mixture of repetitive routine,
unscheduled incidents, and physical/personal challenges
requires that the staff be uniquely adaptable to working
in an abnormal setting with persons who present
inordinate adjustment and management problems.
Agencies vary in the types of pre-employment
testing they require. Ideally, such testing would include
medical examinations and tests for physical agility,
psychological fitness, use of illegal drugs, and special
knowledge and skills. Certainly the high-security nature
of these facilities requires thorough background investigations.

Recruitment and Selection
Most professionals agree that the staffing of an
extended control facility is the single most important
factor in ensuring safe, secure, and humane operations.
Although the ability to be highly selective in assignment
of staff is very important, it is not always possible
because of limitations that may include bargaining
agreements, an existing staffing complement, or a requirement to hire displaced staff.
Although some managers prefer to hire new staff
and provide them intensive training rather than rely on
experienced staff who may have “bad habits” developed
in other settings, it is difficult to justify assignment of
inexperienced staff to work with the system’s most
difficult inmates. Most new staff, with or without
intensive training, will have difficulty in an extended
control environment, and many will “opt out” through
resignation or when transfer becomes available to them.
Initial assignment to extended control may result in the
loss of new staff who otherwise may have promising
career potential. An agency should also recognize that
the assignment of inexperienced staff to such critical
posts may subject them to safety and security risks they

16

can ill afford to take.
Assigning staff to an extended control facility
strictly on a seniority basis is also troublesome because
seniority (or lack of it) may not relate in any way to
requisite interest, temperament, skills, knowledge, and
experience. Agencies should be especially mindful of
the risks inherent in staffing a unit with predominately
low seniority workers, as can happen when seniority
prevails and segregation work is unpopular. In such
instances, a mismatch of skills, experience, interest, and
temperament can negatively impact the operation of the
facility and can create a dangerous situation, hinder the
adjustment of the inmates to difficult conditions, result
in staff turnover, or be detrimental to staff’s physical
and psychological health.
Agencies should consider establishing special
eligibility requirements or, perhaps, a special employee
classification for extended control workers that would
require successful completion of a specialized training
program before regular or relief assignment to extended
control posts. In addition to familiarizing staff with the
dynamics of violence and disruptive and/or antisocial
behavior, such training should prepare them to communicate regularly and positively with inmates in an
environment that is structured to make such communication difficult. Selecting staff who choose to work in
extended control and have prepared themselves and
acquired special knowledge and skills will pay great
dividends as opposed to staffing the facility through
seniority, rotation, or with those considered the “toughest of the tough.”
Many of the extended control facilities built in
recent years are located in rural areas far from metropolitan centers. This creates extraordinary challenges in
recruitment and retention of staff, particularly in
specialty areas such as physicians, dentists, and mental
health professionals, and may require recruitment efforts
and flexibility in employment practices that are beyond
standard practice.
Achieving a diverse workforce is also more difficult
when the facilities are located in relatively isolated
areas. However, it is important, if not essential, that an
agency ensure by whatever means necessary that an
appropriate racial, ethnic, and gender balance is

achieved and maintained. Agencies that have required
gender balance and provided training to ensure understanding of professional and operational expectations of
both men and women have found that gender balance
“softens” the environment and encourages the development or maintenance of positive social, hygiene, and
behavioral practices by inmates. Racial and ethnic
balance is critical in the minimization of anger, creating
perceptions of fairness, providing equity in interpersonal
dialogue with under-represented inmate groups in the
population, and maintaining cultural sensitivity. Although recruiting, hiring, and retaining minority staff for
extended control work is difficult in some jurisdictions,
specialized training and a special employee classification could prove helpful.

Care must be taken to assure that all
personnel in an extended control
facility are thoroughly trained....
Training
Training, which is crucial to any correctional
operation, is especially critical for staff working in
extended control facilities. Custody staff in particular
must perform their duties in an environment in which
inmates by reputation—and frequently in reality—are
combative, assaultive, or threatening.
Staff must work together and be able to rely on each
other to a greater degree than in most other correctional
settings. Regular counts, feeding, handling of correspondence and property, delivery of medications, providing
escort, and performing cell searches all require specific
knowledge and attention to detail. Staff must be able to
handle their responsibilities consistently and professionally. Failure to properly restrain an inmate, perform a
thorough pat search, or operate control panels precisely
can lead to disastrous results.
Only quality training and regular refresher courses
can provide the skills essential to carry out these duties
in a professional manner and ensure that bad habits are
not passed along to new staff members. Top performance levels can only be reached through thorough
orientation and basic training, solid on-the-job training
with competent supervision, and annual review/refresher
training.
Care must be taken to assure that all personnel in an
extended control facility are thoroughly trained in

security procedures and requirements and facility
operations philosophy, as well as their own job skills. It
is particularly important that training be provided to
ensure that staff understand the documentation that is
required in all aspects of the extended control operation.
Cross-training of individuals so they can perform in a
number of posts increases the flexibility of the custody
staff and enhances their understanding of the total
operation. Specialized training also should be planned
for special operations teams, search and shakedown
teams, emergency medical response teams, and cell
extraction teams.

Stress
Many corrections professionals who have operated
or administered extended control facilities express
concern that the unique challenges of these facilities can
create a great deal of stress for the individuals who work
there. A very stressful environment is created by much
of the work day being extremely routine while emergencies can occur instantaneously, staff being challenged
verbally and/or physically by inmates, and so much emphasis on security and control.
Agencies operating extended control facilities
attempt to mitigate the impact of this environment in a
variety of ways. Some require rotation of assignments
within the unit or facility, some require periodic rotation
out of the unit or facility, and others rely on training and
stress reduction classes to help employees handle the
work environment.
Bargaining unit contracts in some jurisdictions
inhibit or prohibit the rotation of staff between shifts,
posts, units, or facilities. Agencies that are planning
extended control facilities should evaluate existing
contracts or agreements and attempt to develop the
flexibility to allow management to rotate staff. Contracts
should also include provision for staff to have access to
counseling, particularly after traumatic incidents such as
necessary use of force.

Leadership and Supervision
Integral to the operation of a quality and legally
defensible extended control facility are strong, technically competent, and professional leadership and supervision at all levels—from the line-level supervising
custody officer to the administrators of the agency.
Administrators at the central agency level must
assure that thorough policy guidance is provided to set

17

the parameters for the operation of the facility. Policy
must clearly outline who will be considered for admission to the facility; what authority may allow such a
placement; what reviews will occur, how often, and by
whom; and what the release criteria are and who
approves. Central agency administrators should also
establish a process to review the policies and procedures
developed at the local level and to regularly review useof-force incidents. They also should, on a regular basis,
personally review the operation of the facilities onsite to
assure that the policies and procedures are indeed being
followed.
Administrators and managers at the local level
(superintendents, wardens, and their delegates) must
assure that the local policies and procedures are consistent with central agency policies and are sufficiently
thorough to provide clear guidance to staff working in
the extended control facility. It is also incumbent on
local managers to observe operations—routine and
exceptional—on a regular basis. They also have the
responsibility to assure that training time and resources
are available, that training is thorough and consistent
with their own policies and procedures, and that the
training is relevant to the effective and efficient operation of the facility. Local managers must also ensure that
support services are coordinated and functioning at a
level that permits proper delivery of services to both
inmates and staff.
First- and second-level supervisors have critical
roles in the proper operation of extended control
facilities. They must assure, on a day-to-day, momentby-moment basis, that the staff know what to do and

18

how to do it. They must see to it that routine tasks are
indeed routinely accomplished, yet be able to take an
onsite leadership role when incidents occur. Comprehensive training is imperative for this segment of the
staff also, as they must be thoroughly knowledgeable of
and understand the policies and procedures and how to
implement them. In addition, they must be well trained
in the supervision of subordinates, crisis management,
and use-of-force techniques.
Non-custody staff must also be selected and trained
to provide leadership and supervision over their particular specialties. Medical, dental, food service, mental
health, religious, program, maintenance, and other
support staff must provide leadership and technical
knowledge in their areas of expertise to create balance
in the facility operation. They must also be thoroughly
grounded in knowledge of the mission of the facility and
understand and accept the safety and security requirements of the operation.
If the extended control facility is to avoid common
pitfalls, it is incumbent on administrators at all levels to
think through, adopt, and implement consistent policies,
procedures, and behaviors that promote professional
operation of these very demanding and challenging
places. If successful, the agency may be able to avoid,
or at least reduce, the risks of the “we/they” syndrome
between the staff and inmates. If quality leadership and
supervision are absent, the program is likely to face
major problems and probably litigation.

Section 6. Siting, Design, and Construction Issues
Co-Located vs. Separate
Jurisdictions in the planning stages of developing an
extended control facility should give a great deal of
thought to their decision to either co-locate it with another
correctional institution or to site and build a separate
facility. Extended control facilities in operation are sited
in both ways and in variations of those ways.
Co-location, either through renovation or new construction, usually offers several advantages: less public
resistance to the siting process, existing utility extensions
and agreements, opportunity for staff at the parent
institution to oversee the renovation/construction phase,
and availability of logistical support once the new facility
is in operation. Co-location also may offer the advantage
of a ready source of experienced staff, facilitate rotation of
staff from extended control to less stressful units, and
provide greater backup capability in an emergency. Those
critical of co-located facilities suggest it is difficult to
maintain the high level of security and custody when lower
custody programs are at the same location.
A separate stand-alone facility at a different site may
mitigate that fear. It allows for a “brand new beginning” in
the startup of the program and allows for all elements,
from security features to housing units to support areas, to
be designed in support of the extended control program.
However, transition programs within the facility can have
an effect similar to having lower custody programs colocated.

Site Selection
It would be desirable to locate extended control
facilities in or near urban areas to facilitate recruiting and
maintaining a diverse workforce; recruiting specialty staff
and services (medical, dental, and mental health); and
reducing logistical costs associated with such things as
transportation of people and supplies. Many corrections
officials advise against urban sites, however, suggesting
they create greater visibility and uninformed criticism of
the program, greater public resistance to siting, and a
greater threat (real or perceived) to security.
Rural sites have become more of the norm in recent
years, as the building of correctional facilities is seen by
smaller communities as a means of enhancing the local
economy with an “industry” that is relatively envi-

ronment-friendly and stable. Locating in a community
that is accepting rather than resistant is desirable for any
endeavor, public or private.
Before initiating a siting process for an extended
control facility, agencies should address the issues of
staff recruitment and retention; transportation; access to
medical, law enforcement, and fire services; availability
of affordable housing; and environmental impact. Siting
often becomes a political decision with little regard for
pragmatic correctional issues, but corrections officials
should at least document their concerns.

Design Issues
The designs of extended control facilities vary
greatly, and many agencies with newer facilities have
borrowed design ideas from earlier models. As in all
new construction, the design should be heavily based on
the mission of the facility. Considerations in defining the
mission should include the profile of the target
population; custody requirements; planned programs and
services; the facility’s relationship to other parts of the
corrections system, particularly in matters concern-ing
reception and release; and if transition programs will be
housed in the facility. Once these elements are defined,
technology requirements and housing, program, and
shared spaces can be determined.
An agency should carefully consider the number of
extended control beds that are or will be needed. Officials should avoid the approach that “more is better” and
limit the size of the facility to the number of beds
essential to the management of dangerous inmates for
whom no other viable means of control is available.
Overbuilding extended control capacity—which will be
used by some profile of inmate in this era of burgeoning
prison populations—may cause problems operationally
and legally as the agency attempts to house inmates in
an extended control environment who do not require that
level of custody or security. Once constructed, it will be
difficult, if not impossible, to use the facility without the
intensive staffing characteristic of extended control operations.
Most extended control facility designs incorporate
single cells; a relatively small number of cells in each
pod; and a remote central control booth that

19

electronically operates cell doors, shower doors, unit
doors, and any number of other functions in several pods.
Some new facilities, though considered supermax, are
designed for double-celling, which suggests that the target
population requires a lesser level of custody than that
required by a true extended control population. If the
target population is suitable for double-celling, the
planning agency should consider whether a lower level of
control that is less costly than extended control may be
appropriate.
In planning new facilities, inclusion of relatively
inexpensive technology can provide amenities that can
become incentives for good behavior and support health,
safety, and security. Secure, built-in intercoms, radios, and
monitors with which to communicate with inmates and
provide educational, religious, and treatment programs and
access to legal information and current events are among
the possibilities for humanizing a sterile environment.
Although an agency may choose to provide few programs
to inmates in extended control, consideration should be
given to including program delivery capabilities in design
and construction to accommodate necessary modifications
in future years based on changing needs, court decisions,
or policy revisions.
If transition programming is to be provided, the design
should include adequate day room, program, recreation/
exercise, and other shared spaces to facilitate progressively greater freedom of movement for inmates. Housing,
programs, out-of-cell opportunity, and staff interaction
should all demonstrate that the inmate is making progress,
but sufficient custody should be maintained to ensure
safety. Space separation from the extended control housing
should be apparent and should clearly distinguish
transition inmates and staff who supervise them from
extended control inmates and staff.
Most extended control designs significantly “harden”
and limit the number of access and egress points on the
perimeter. Support services are generally near but remote
from the housing units. Some designs include an inner
perimeter that allows lower custody inmates, normally
from an adjacent institution (but possibly inmates in
transition programs housed in the extended control
facility), to provide support such as food, library, maintenance, and sanitation services but without contact with the
extended control inmates. Space for some support services
and activities, such as attorney and family visiting areas,
hearing rooms, medical examination rooms, and counselor

20

and supervisor offices, is often provided in immediate
proximity to or in the housing pods.
Space designed for administrators and managers
varies, but normally is split between an “outside” administration building to house support personnel who
ordinarily do not have routine inmate contact and
“inside” administration areas for staff providing direct
inmate services. Limiting the number of staff who enter
the secure perimeter to those essential to the daily
operation of the institution lessens the potential for
security breaches and reduces staff security processing
time.
Critical design decisions faced by planners—with
varying choices being made—include cell size, windows
(or not), types of cell fronts and doors, locking and
control systems, types of electronic systems on the
perimeter, special relationships of support services,
training space for staff, program space (if any), congregate recreation and/or exercise space (if any), and
many others. It is important that the experience of
extended control managers in other agencies be considered and that policy and operations issues be
addressed before planning and design. Poor decisions
up front inevitably lead to extensive retrofitting or
remodeling at a later date, increased operating costs, and
the potential for weakened security.
Agencies planning new facilities should try to avoid
designs that are so “tight” that they restrict additions or
changes to the facility in the future, when correctional
needs may change. For example, some extended control
facilities contain little or no space for programs, based
on the assumption that the type of population they will
house will not be allowed to participate in congregate
programs. In the future, either due to court decisions or
different system needs, they may encounter serious and
probably very costly problems in attempting to meet new
challenges if the design is so inflexible as to pre-clude
additions to the original facility.

Construction Costs
During the past decade, the costs of operating prison
systems have increased dramatically due to increasing
numbers of inmates, new prison construction, and the
swelling ranks of corrections staff. As the share of a
jurisdiction’s budget dedicated to corrections increases,
so does attention to correctional operations. This has
often resulted in a reduction of critical services.

Construction of extended control facilities is very
costly due to the need for high-security components:
elaborate perimeters; high-security doors, hardware, and
locking systems; heavily fortified walls, ceilings, and
floors; and sophisticated electronic systems in master and
unit control rooms. Although construction costs are high,
they are dwarfed by the costs to staff such facilities over
a period of years. Virtually all inmate services, maintenance, and sanitation work are provided wholly or in part
by corrections staff in these facilities.
Cost-benefit analysis of construction methods, materials, and equipment and visionary planning of space needs
and use are essential in all construction planning. While
use of lower-grade materials and equipment, reduction of
core space to the minimum footage feasible, and not
“footprinting” in space for possible other uses in the future
have enabled agencies to reduce initial construction costs,
these approaches to cost containment have resulted in
significant maintenance, replacement, and retrofitting
costs later. A footprint that includes space for expansion,
alternate use, or addition of program modules adds little to
construction costs and can produce great savings in future
years.

able to operate with reduced custody staffing as a result
of a significant reduction in the number of out-of-cell
escorts. Some agencies have been able to reduce the
number of security staff through use of video cameras
and other electronic equipment, this being particularly
effective when their use is incorporated into the original
facility design.
One particularly critical factor that has a significant
impact on operating costs is the design of the perimeter.
Whether (and how many) towers are incorporated has
long-term operating budget implications. Maintaining
coverage in one tower seven days per week, 24 hours per
day requires approximately 5.3 full-time employees.
Obviously, staffing multiple towers would consume
significant portions of the facility’s operating budget.
Agencies operating extended control facilities vary
in their response to this issue. Some have chosen towers.
Others have chosen lethal fences and few, if any, towers.
Yet others rely on heavily “wired” fences with a variety
of electronic alarm systems, with or without towers.
Those that opted for the fewest towers typically placed
the tower(s) at the vehicular or pedestrian entrance, or
both.

Implications for Operating Costs
In most jurisdictions, operating costs for extended
control facilities are generally among the highest when
compared to those for other facilities. Facilities that have
similar or higher costs tend to be other specialized ones,
such as medical or psychiatric facilities.
The location of the facility will contribute to operating
costs. Facilities that are distant from supplies and services
will ordinarily have greater operating expenditures due to
transportation-related factors. Transporting inmates to and
from the extended control facility, courts, and community
medical services will be more costly.
Design factors will also influence operating costs. The
number of inmates per unit, per pod, and in the total facility and the number of staff required to provide adequate
security and services are all design-related issues. The
number of officers required to staff control centers,
monitor housing units, provide escort within and outside
the institution, and provide internal and external security
will affect the operating costs.
Facilities designed with clear sight lines may be able
to operate effectively with less staff than those with
obstructed views. Those with showers in the cells may be

Further Considerations
Before (or during) planning or designing an extended control facility, the planning team should observe
extended control operations in several jurisdictions. It
would be most helpful if those jurisdictions share the
same philosophy regarding extended control and operate
a facility of the approximate size anticipated.
The visiting team should discuss the strengths and
weaknesses of various design features with managers
and line staff at the operating facilities. Asking them,
“What would you change if you could?” may produce
helpful design tips.
To help assess the impact of the design on operational efficiency and costs, the team should review the
staffing pattern, post orders, and policy and procedure
manuals. The type of inmate misconduct that is most
common may also help identify possible improvements
in the design and operations. Issues related to constitutional conditions of confinement, including cell size,
exercise space, natural light, and air exchange, should be
carefully studied.

21

Section 7. Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations
Correctional philosophies shift over time, fads are
born, and trends evolve. Large linear prisons emphasizing
large industrial plants were the norm up to the 1950s.
Smaller prisons emphasizing education and treatment
emerged in the 1960s only to be replaced once again by
large prisons in the 1980s and even larger prisons in the
1990s. Some of the recent fads and trends include boot
camps, privatization, lethal fences, chain gangs, removal
of exercise weights and other privileges, sex offender
treatment, and inmate co-pay for services. Some of these
gained prominence due to political attractiveness, and
some because they do present partial solutions for today’s
correctional problems.
Typically, “new” programs in the field of corrections
are not based on extensive research. Some are born out of
emerging needs; some are created in reaction to a crisis
or emergency; others are the result of political agendas.
It would seem that the “supermaxes” have emerged from
a blend of these influences, depending on the jurisdiction.
It appears that the purest intent of supermaxes
around the country is to isolate inmates who through
behavior—or threat of such behavior—are dangerous or
chronically violent, have escaped or attempted to escape
from a high-security correctional facility, or have incited
or attempted to incite disruption in a correctional facility.
The physical facility or unit and the program implemented there isolate these individuals in a highly restrictive setting for the primary purpose of protection of staff,
other inmates, and the community. The purpose of such
facilities is not, or should not be, to exact additional
punishment. Nor should such a facility be used as the
repository for inmates who are simply bothersome, selfdestructive, or mentally ill; who need protection; or who
have an infectious disease.
The extended control facility in its purest form is
operated with the assumption that the inmate placed in it
must be denied access to people that he/she might harm,
to the opportunity to incite disturbances or disrupt the
operation of a correctional facility, and to materials with
which he/she may harm self or others. Some agencies do
place many other types of inmates in these facilities. The
questions an agency may wish to ask before expanding
the criteria beyond the very limited ones, or in planning,
building, or operating a new facility, include:

22

C Do we want to risk the possible legal challenges that
may accompany the expansion of placement criteria
beyond what is absolutely necessary?
C Do we want to incur the significant expense of
placing inmates in extended control who do not
actually require that level of control?
C Do we want to subject inmates to the severe and
rigid conditions of extended control if they do not
clearly meet the narrow criteria for placement there?
C Is a policy of “concentration” rather than one of
“dispersal” in the best interest of our agency?
When a jurisdiction has decided to operate an extended
control facility, the questions of what to allow (or deny)
in programs and services become critical, as do the issues
of staffing, staff training, supervision, and administration.
Analysis of existing and planned extended control
facilities and a review of concerns and experiences
regarding them suggest that the field would benefit from
implementation of the following recommendations.
C Initiate research on the effects of such facilities on
the inmates housed in them, to include the impact of
varying lengths of time and the availability (or
absence) of a variety of programs.
C Initiate research on the impact of such facilities on
the personnel who work in them.
C Evaluate the options that agencies might use to more
effectively manage some types of inmates who they
currently place or plan to place in extended control.
C Evaluate more thoroughly the impact of these
facilities on the correctional agency and its other
facilities.
C Create cost-benefit analysis capability to better
assess the value returned by these facilities.
C Adopt a universal definition of the population that
would be housed in extended control facilities.
C Develop professional standards specific to extended
control facilities that provide a template for agencies
to follow in the areas of policies and procedures,
training, staffing, and program and service provision.

References and Bibliography
Barnes, H.E. The Story of Punishment: A Record of Man’s Inhumanity to Man, 2d Edition. Monclair,
NJ: Patterson Smith, 1972.
Bottoms, A.E., and Light, R. eds., Problems of Long-Term Imprisonment. Aldershot: Gower, 1987.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1995. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Justice, 1996.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1996. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Justice, 1997.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1997. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Justice, 1998.
Bukstell, L.H. and Kilman, P.R. “Psychological Effects of Imprisonment on Confined Individuals,”
Psychological Bulletin 88(2), 1980.
Camp, G.M. and Camp, C.G. Prison Gangs: Their Extent, Nature and Impact on Prisons. Salem, NY:
Criminal Justice Institute, 1985.
Carter, Stephen A. “Issues Impacting Supermax Facilities.” Presentation to ACA 127th Congress of
Correction: August 13, 1997.
Conklin, John F. Criminology (Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon) 6th Edition, 1993.
Federal Bureau of Prisons. Security Designation and Custody Classification Manual. Washington, DC:
Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1996.
Federal Bureau of Prisons, North Central Regional Counsel. Legal Issues Regarding Administrative
Maximum Institutions and Control Units. Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Prisons, July 1997.
Fellner, Jamie and Mariner, Joanne. Cold Storage: Super-Maximum Security Confinement in Indiana.
Human Rights Watch, NY, October 1997.
Garland, David. Punishment and Modern Society. University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Gendreau, P. and Goggin, C. “Principles of Effective Correctional Programming.” Forum on Corrections
Research.
Grassian, Stuart. “Psychopathological Effects of Solitary Confinement.” American Journal of Psychiatry
140, 1983.
Haney, Craig. “Infamous Punishment: The Psychological Consequences of Isolation,” National Prison
Project Journal (ACLU), Spring 1993.
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Johnson, Robert. Hard Time: Understanding and Reforming the Prison. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth,
1987.
King, Roy. “Maximum-Security Custody in Britain and the USA.” British Journal of Criminology,
Volume 31 No. 2, Spring 1991.
Lemov, Penelope. “Roboprison.” Governing. March 1995.
Mauer, Marc. The Lessons of Marion. Philadelphia, PA: The American Friends Service Committee,
1985.
National Institute of Corrections and LIS, Inc. “Supermax Housing: A Survey of Current Practice.”
Special Issues in Corrections, March 1997.
Shelden, R.G. “A Comparison of Gang Members and Non-Gang Members in a Prison Setting.” The
Prison Journal (Fall-Winter 1991).
Toch, Hans and Adams, Kenneth. The Disturbed Violent Offender. Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association, 1992 (revised).
Ward, David. “A Corrections Dilemma: How to Evaluate Supermax Regimes.” Corrections Today, July
1995.
Ward, David A. and Carlson, Norman A. “Super-Maximum Custody Prisons in the United States.”
Prison Service Journal, Issue No. 97. April 1994.

24

Appendix. Checklist of Considerations
for an Extended Control Facility
The checklist that follows identifies many of the important factors relevant to extended control facilities.
It may be used in several ways.
C To help frame discussions about whether an extended control facility is needed or appropriate.
• To lead decisionmakers in discussion of critical policy issues that should precede planning or design
of an extended control facility.
C To assist in the development of a program statement and plans for a new extended control facility.
C To guide correctional decisionmakers in the process of designing an extended control facility.
C To assist in the development of an operations plan for an extended control facility.
C To assess current extended control operations.
Although the checklist is not exhaustive, it will help broaden the user’s considerations regarding
extended control facilities.

25

Issue

Agency Policy
1. Has a decision been made to concentrate, rather than disperse, high-risk inmates?
2. Is the agency’s philosophy concerning the management of high-risk inmates
and the operation of extended control facilities clearly articulated in policy?
3. Have a clear definition and criteria been adopted that describe the “high-risk
inmates” who may be considered for placement in extended control housing?
4. Will the facility house inmates of lesser custody than “extended control”?
C If so, have such levels of custody been clearly defined and differential
movement regulations, staffing requirements, etc. been determined?
5. Will inmates diagnosed with mental illness be placed in the facility if their
conduct meets extended control placement criteria?
C Will those receiving psychotropic medications be admitted?
C If so, will they be housed in the same unit/area as other inmates?
6. Have gender issues been considered and housing identified for women in
extended control status?
7. Has clear differentiation been made between disciplinary segregation,
administrative segregation, protective custody, and extended control status?
8. Has length of stay been addressed?
C based on precipitating incident(s) and history?
C based on extended control conduct?
C a fixed time determined at or prior to placement?
C other criteria?
9. Has transition programming been considered?
C within the extended control facility?
C upon transfer to an alternate site?
10. Has consideration been given to what programming will be offered in the
extended control facility, including where and by whom?
11. Has consideration been given to the regimen for female inmates in extended
control as compared to that for male inmates?
12. Does policy require agency review and approval of all extended control facility
policies, procedures, and regulations?

Admission and Release
1. Is authority for approving placement in and release from the extended control
facility explicitly stated in agency policy?

26

Yes No

Comment

Issue

Yes No

Comment

2. Does approval or review of placements occur at the upper administrative levels
of the agency?
3. Does agency policy require periodic review of the extended control status of
each inmate placed there?
4. Are policies and procedures governing extended control placement and release
explicit and clear?
5. Are inmates provided information enabling them to anticipate a date of release
from extended control and the criteria governing their release?

Classification
1. Can the classification system be modified to identify inmates meeting the criteria
for extended control placement while maintaining its structural integrity?
2. Have objective classification criteria been identified that will govern extended
control placement and release?
3. Are the criteria for override of classification recommendations clearly stated?
4. Does the authority for override of classification decisions concerning inmates
in extended control status reside in upper levels of agency administration?
5. Do classification policies and procedures require periodic review of extended
control inmates and provide opportunity for inmate input?
6. Does the classification review team include a central office representative(s)?

Programs
1. Is congregate programming permitted for inmates in extended control status?
2. What programs are offered in extended control units?
C anger management?
C education?
C addiction (drug and alcohol)?
C cognitive restructuring?
C other ?
3. What programs are offered in the transition program (if applicable)?
C anger management?
C education?
C addiction (drug and alcohol)?
C cognitive restructuring?
C other?

27

Issue
4. Is in-cell communication technology provided to facilitate in-cell program
delivery (intercom, radio, tv/video monitor, etc.)?
5. Are community volunteers permitted to participate in program planning and
delivery?
6. Is completion of programs a criterion in release considerations?
7. Are inmates provided written information concerning programming
expectations and the potential relationship to release decisions, when
appropriate?
8. Is a program provided to mitigate possible damage to inmates due to absence
of human contact over a period of time?
9. Is a specially designed program provided for inmates who will be released
directly to the community from extended control status?

Siting, Design, and Construction
1. If planning an extended control facility, has co-location vs. a separate facility
been considered and have cost and efficiency comparisons been made?
2. If planning an extended control facility, will the site being considered be an
asset to, or detract from, the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation?
3. Will the site of the extended control facility allow for recruitment and retention
of qualified staff who reflect the ethnic and gender diversity of the inmate
population?
C correctional officers?
C medical staff?
C mental health staff?
C program staff?
C support staff?
4. Is backup community medical care readily available within a reasonable
travel/response distance of the site?
C If so, are they willing to serve the extended control population?
5. Has consideration been given to separately housing groups eligible for
extended control that may require varying types of care (mentally ill, elderly,
developmentally disabled, etc.)?
6. Has the design of other extended control facilities been examined and
evaluated?

28

Yes No

Comment

Issue

Yes No

Comment

7. Are in-cell monitoring, communication, and program delivery systems being
considered?
C intercom?
C radio?
C tv/video monitor?
C other?
8. Has the potential need for cell-front program delivery been considered in the
design of cell fronts?
9. Have issues of interest to the courts been addressed (e.g., natural light, cell
size, air exchange, exercise space)?
10. Have observation and line-of-sight design factors been thoroughly reviewed?
11. Has space been “footprinted” into the design to allow for the future addition of
space if system or facility needs change?
12. Have adequate physical facilities been provided for staff functions, including
training?
13. Has adequate office space been provided for program and support staff and
located in areas that encourage their presence in the housing areas?
14. Are adequate backup (manual) systems to electronics and other technologies
planned to support operations in the event of equipment or power failure?
15. Is reliance on electronics and other technologies justified either by increased
efficiency, improved security and operations, or reduced operating costs?
16. Do design and finish features (e.g., color and lighting) create an environment
as positive as possible for staff and inmates, and the ability to maintain
satisfactory levels of sanitation?
17. Are cell design, equipment, and construction sufficiently “hardened” to resist
destructive behavior of disruptive inmates?
18. Has the possible need to evacuate housing areas in an emergency been
considered?
19. Does the design accommodate efficient provision of inmate services such as
food service, laundry and clothing exchange, cell sanitation, showers, exercise,
family and attorney visits, and professional contacts?
20. Have total costs been projected (including debt service, if any) in estimating
the overall cost of the project compared to “normal” prison construction?
21. Have operating costs been projected to gain an understanding of future
financial implications?

29

Issue
22. Have projected total costs (project, construction, and operations) been made
available to policymakers?
23. Does the design mitigate operating costs to the extent possible?
24. Has adequate cost-benefit analysis been performed on materials and equipment?

Staffing
1. Will the extended control facility be staffed initially by employees with
extensive correctional experience?
2. Are adequate training resources available to assure thorough orientation and
basic training for all staff?
3. Has a training curriculum been developed that will provide information and
knowledge concerning agency philosophy, policy, and operational principles
relevant to an extended control facility?
4. Has a training curriculum been developed that will provide information and
knowledge concerning facility policies and procedures and an overview of the
total operation of the extended control facility?
5. Are the trainers well versed and knowledgeable about the agency and extended
control facility policies, procedures, and operations?
6. Is ongoing training available in use of force and emergency response, and for
staff assigned to special response teams?
7. Has a program of refresher training been developed and provision made to
ensure attendance by all staff?
8. Is there provision for the monitoring of all training to ensure currency,
appropriateness, and compliance with agency/facility mission, goals, and
objectives?
9. Are provisions made for the mandatory rotation of staff among assignments,
to other units, or to other facilities to aid them in maintaining objectivity in
inmate management and to relieve stress?
10. Are programs in place to assess and assist staff following traumatic events?
11. Are supervisory staff responsibilities well defined in policies and procedures?
12. Are supervisory staff adequately trained in the principles and techniques of
supervision?
13. Are supervisory staff adequately trained in the management of high-risk
inmates and the operation of an extended control facility?

30

Yes No

Comment

Issue

Yes No

Comment

14. Do protocols exist to assure that facility administrators provide adequate onsite
monitoring and guidance to first- and second-level supervisors?
15. Do protocols exist to assure adequate presence and monitoring of extended
control operations by agency central office staff?

Food Service
1. How will food be served to inmates?
C congregate central dining?
C congregate or individually in day rooms?
C at cell front?
2. Have food service criteria and monitoring procedures been clearly established
in written policies and procedures?
C menu development?
C food preparation and kitchen sanitation?
C quality control?
C portion control?
C food temperatures?
C supervision of food line or cell-front service?
C preparation of special food trays by staff? ____ Under direct staff
supervision? ____
3.

Is each meal taste-tested by staff and its quality and relevant information
documented?

Inmate Mail and Property
1. Do written policies and procedures govern the receipt, monitoring, and
delivery of staff and inmate mail?
2. Does written policy provide for inmate receipt of “legal mail” that is subject to
inspection for contraband but is not subject to monitoring?
C are the approved originators of legal mail clearly designated in written
policy?
C do delivery procedures ensure proper handling of legal mail?
3. Is inmate-to-inmate communication through the mail system allowed?
4. Does written policy state the amount and type of mail an inmate may possess
in his/her cell?
5. Is the amount of legal material, magazines, books, newspapers, and other
flammable items an inmate may have in his/her cell clearly established in
written policy?

31

Issue
6. Do written policies and procedures regulate the items of personal property
inmates may have in their possession?
C personal radios?
C televisions?
C other electronic equipment?
C other?
7. Will inmates be provided uniform clothing?
8. Will personal hygiene items be provided to inmates without charge?
C if not, are they available in an inmate commissary?
C was a decision made concerning shaving equipment?
9. Do policies and procedures require regular clothing exchange and limit the
amount of clothing inmates may have in their possession?
10. Do policies and procedures require regular linen exchange and limit the
number of sheets, blankets, towels, etc. inmates may have in their possession?

Medical Services
1. How, when, and where will sick call be conducted?
2. How and where will outpatient medical services be provided?
3. Where will inpatient medical services be provided?
4. Where will medical specialty clinics be held or services provided?
5. Where will emergency medical services be provided? By whom?
6. Does facility design and/or space use provide for adequate safety and security
for medical staff while ensuring required levels of privacy and confidentiality?
7. Will nursing care be available, and will physicians who live or work within a
reasonable distance be on call 24 hours each day?

Mental Health Services
1. Will all inmates referred to the facility be screened for mental illness?
2. Has provision been made for the treatment of diagnosed mentally ill inmates or
their transfer to other facilities with treatment resources?
3. Has provision been made for periodic review of the mental health status of all
inmates in extended control housing?
4. Are correctional officers provided training to help them recognize symptoms of
deteriorating mental health?

32

Yes No

Comment

Issue

Yes No

Comment

5. Is a referral process clearly articulated in policies and procedures to ensure
timely referral for mental health services?

Religious Services
1. Will chaplaincy or other staff be available to provide for inmates’ religious
needs?
2. Will community religious leaders and volunteers be allowed in the extended
control housing areas to provide religious services?
C If not, how will religious services be delivered to inmates who adhere to
religions that are not represented by the facility’s chaplaincy corps?
3. Where will religious services be provided and by whom?
C at cell front?
C congregate worship/study?
C by intercom, radio, or video in cell?
C by staff chaplains only?
C by community religious leaders?
C by religious volunteers?
C by combination of
4. Have the allowable articles of personal property pertinent to an inmate’s
religion been clearly defined?

Sanitation
1. Has provision been made for maintaining the sanitation of extended control
housing that does not compromise the security of the unit by admitting inmate
workers into the area?
2. Will inmates be responsible for the regular cleaning of their cells?
C If so, have nontoxic, noncaustic, nonflammable cleaning supplies been
identified for use?
3. Does agency policy require regular safety/sanitation inspection of the facility
by institution and agency administrators?

Security and Custody Control
A. Supervision
1. Are supervisory staff available in the extended control facility at all times?
2. Does agency policy require that institution administrators and managers visit
the extended control housing areas frequently and document their entry and
egress?

33

Issue
3. Are all supervisory staff adequately trained in the principles and techniques of
staff and inmate supervision?
4. Have up-to-date, comprehensive security policies and procedures been
developed and training provided to all supervisory staff?
5. Does all planned use of force require supervisory approval and oversight?
6. Does the use of chemical agents require supervisory approval and oversight, to
the extent possible?
7. Does agency policy require that all planned use of force be videotaped and that
written reports be submitted by all involved staff?
C is review of all documentation (including videotape) by the warden or deputy
warden mandated?
C is central office review required?
B. Searches and Inspections
1. Have policies and procedures been developed governing searches of inmates in
extended control status?
C personal property and cells? (protocol, frequency, documentation)
C pat (frisk) searches?
C strip searches? (when, where, by whom)
C body cavity searches? (presenting problems/conditions, by whom)
2. Does agency policy require that each cell be closely inspected before each
occupancy and that the inspection and cell condition be documented?
3. Does agency policy require security inspection of all locking and control
devices by qualified staff or others on a routine basis?
4. Does agency policy require frequent inspection of lights, sprinklers, power
outlets, vents, etc. in cells to identify attempts to tamper and damage?
5. Does agency policy require inspection of medical facilities, visiting areas,
exercise spaces, and other areas an extended control inmate may enter to
ensure no weapons, drugs, or other contraband are secreted there?
C. Use of Force
1. Do clear and concise written policies and procedures govern the use of force?
2. Is there a standardized list of security equipment with which all security staff
have been familiarized?
C restraints?
C chemical agents?
C cell entry/CERT protective gear?

34

Yes No

Comment

Issue
C
C
C
C

Yes No

Comment

video camera?
riot batons?
stun devices?
lethal weapons?

3. Is a continuum of force documented in all relevant post orders that defines
conditions in which lethal force shall be employed?
4. Has provision been made for activating SERT, SWAT, or search teams in the
event of an emergency?
5. Has written protocol been developed governing the movement/transport of
extended control inmates both within and outside the facility?
C number of escort staff within the extended control facility?
C number of escort staff outside the extended control facility?
C criteria for use of armed “chase” vehicle in motor transports?
C security protocol in court and hospital or clinic?
C notification of law enforcement when inmates are transported on public
highways?
C use of restraints, chemical agents, stun devices, or lethal force during
transport?

Inmate Telephone and Visits
1. Are provisions made for inmate use of the telephone to maintain family
contact?
2. Does policy clearly establish eligibility criteria and protocol for the preapproval screening of all potential visitors?
3. Will contact visits be allowed for inmates in extended control status?
C If not, are adequate non-contact visit facilities available?
4. Are strip searches routinely conducted following face-to-face contact of
extended control inmates with visitors, attorneys, or others?
5. Does the frequency, duration, or type (contact or non-contact) of visiting,
and/or number of persons with whom an extended control inmate may visit
provide incentive to gain a lesser level of custody?
6. Are inmates in lesser levels of control in the same facility?
C If so, are separate visiting facilities provided for extended control inmates
and those in lesser levels of control to ensure the security integrity of the
extended control area?

35

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Supermax Prisons: Overview

National Institute of Corrections
Advisory Board
Shay Bilchik
Administrator
Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention
Washington, D.C.
Michael Brown
Division of Field Services
New Hampshire Department of Corrections
Concord, New Hampshire
Norman A. Carlson
Adjunct Professor, Department of Sociology
University of Minnesota
Stillwater, Minnesota
Sharon English
Deputy Director
California Youth Authority
Office of Prevention and Victims’ Services
Sacramento, California
Newman Flanagan
Executive Director
National District Attorneys Association
Alexandria, Virginia
Michael Gaines
Chairman
U.S. Parole Commission
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Olivia Golden
Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, D.C.
James H. Gomez
Deputy Executive Officer
California Public Employees Retirement System
Sacramento, California

Kathleen Hawk
Director
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Washington, D.C.
Norval Morris
Professor
University of Chicago Law School
Chicago, Illinois
Barry J. Nidorf
Chief Probation Officer, Retired
Los Angeles Probation Department
Granada Hills, California
Gayle Ray
Sheriff
Davidson County
Nashville, Tennessee
Laurie Robinson
Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Washington, D.C.
Arthur M. Wallenstein
Director
King County Department of Adult Detention
Seattle, Washington
Odie Washington
Director
Illinois Department of Corrections
Springfield, Illinois
Judge Rya W. Zobel
Director
Federal Judicial Center
Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of Justice
National Institute of Corrections
Washington, D.C. 20534
Official Business
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Supermax Prisons: Overview and General Considerations

 

 

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