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Publication date: 10 February 2012

Keramet Ann Reiter

Supermaxes across the United States detain thousands in long-term solitary confinement, under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Almost every state built a…

Abstract

Supermaxes across the United States detain thousands in long-term solitary confinement, under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Almost every state built a supermax between the late 1980s and the late 1990s. This chapter examines the role of federal prisoners’ rights litigation in the 1960s and 1970s in shaping the prisons, especially supermaxes, built in the 1980s and 1990s in the United States. This chapter uses a systematic analysis of federal court case law, as well as archival research and oral history interviews with key informants, including lawyers, experts, and correctional administrators, to explore the relationship between federal court litigation and prison building and designing. This chapter argues that federal conditions of confinement litigation in the 1960s and 1970s (1) had a direct role in shaping the supermax institutions built in the subsequent decades and (2) contributed to the resistance of these institutions to constitutional challenges. The history of litigation around supermaxes is an important and as-yet-unexplored aspect of the development of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence in the United States over the last half century.

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Studies in Law, Politics, and Society
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78052-622-5

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Book part
Publication date: 10 February 2012

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Studies in Law, Politics, and Society
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78052-622-5

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Book part
Publication date: 6 November 2018

Reiter Keramet

While the steep increases in rates of incarceration seen in the United States in the late twentieth century have begun to level out, one form of incarceration has seen…

Abstract

While the steep increases in rates of incarceration seen in the United States in the late twentieth century have begun to level out, one form of incarceration has seen more drastic reductions in rates of use in the 2010s: long-term solitary confinement. Across the United States, prisons that once isolated prisoners for decades at a time stand hauntingly empty. The solitary confinement reform movement provides an important lens for examining what happens when an entrenched punitive practice faces widespread and sustained criticism and reveals the multiple paradigms through which reform operates – through politics, litigation, or charismatic leadership.

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After Imprisonment
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-270-1

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