Title: Solitary control and punitive isolation: 'new' forms of solitary confinement in Supermax prisons of the USA
Name: Sharon Shalev
Mannheim Centre for Criminology
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton St. London WC2A 2AE, UK
Year: 2003
Type: Dissertation Fellowship
Summary: My study examined the rise and proliferation of 'Supermaxes,' large prison facilities dedicated to holding prisoners in prolonged and strict solitary confinement, in the United States since the late 1980s. It was based on field research conducted in two Supermax facilities and on in-depth interviews with prison officials, prison architects, current and former prisoners, mental health professionals and legal experts. Being mindful of historic uses of solitary confinement in the prison setting, the study also traced continuities and discontinuities in its use in the last two centuries and argued that rather than being an entirely 'new' form of incarceration, Supermax prisons utilise principles of architecture, surveillance and control which were set out in the early 19th century and are enhanced by the most advanced technologies available to current day prison planners and administrators.

The thesis began by examining the origins of the Supermax phenomenon, its scale and some of the factors and agencies that have played a role in the creation of these prisons in the United States in the last two decades. Following a discussion of the goals of Supermax prisons, the thesis investigated how official justifications are translated into administrative categories and how these categories are applied in practice. It then explored the architectural design of Supermaxes, daily routines inside these prisons, and the psychophysical effects of solitary confinement. The final part of this thesis examined how the US courts and international human rights organisations view Supermax confinement, and concluded with an assessment of the costs and benefits of these prisons.

I am now putting together a 'Handbook on solitary confinement' based on my research findings. The Handbook will aim to provide prison practitioners with a much needed single point of reference on the health effects of solitary confinement, and on professional, ethical and human rights law guidelines and codes of practice relating to its use.
Bibliography: Shalev, S. and Guinea, D. "The Use of Solitary Confinement in England and Wales." [La Detention En Isolement Au Royaume Uni] In La detention en isolement dans les prisons Europeennes: les regimes speciaux de detention en Italie et en Espagne et les measures administratives en France et au Royaume Uni, edited by Zingoni-Fernandez M. and Giovannini, N., 63-96. Bruxelles: Bruylant, 2004.