December 11, 2006

Supermax.

Described by Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph:
"It is a closed-off world designed to isolate inmates from social and environmental stimuli, with the ultimate purpose of causing mental illness and chronic physical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis," he wrote in one letter to The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

Rudolph wrote that he spends 23 hours a day in his 7-by-12-foot cell, his only exercise confined to an enclosed area he described as a "large empty swimming pool" divided into "dog-kennel style cages."

"Using solitary confinement, Supermax is designed to inflict as much misery and pain as is constitutionally permissible," he wrote in a letter.
Interesting that he (very nearly) concedes it's constitutional.

29 comments:

Joe said...

So is life imprisonment in a place like this still more humain than the death penalty?

Christy said...

A bit OT, but...
Here in Baltimore a preistly pedophile is getting out of prison early because the other inmates reaction to him forced authorities to keep him in solitary confinement for his own protection. The reasoning is that the judge hadn't sentenced him to such a nasty punishment.

SteveR said...

"designed to inflict as much misery and pain as is constitutionally permissible"

Reminds me of a job I once had..

Anyway, he gave up any right to sympathy.

Simon said...

What else could he possibly contend? Even if, for sake of argument, one accepts the Trop test ("[t]he [Eighth] Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society") (Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101) (1958), under that test, the court will seek "guidance [from] history and from the objective evidence of the country's present judgment concerning the acceptability" of a given punishment, Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, 593 (1977), and the "clearest and most reliable objective evidence of contemporary values is the legislation enacted by the country’s legislatures." Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302, 331 (1989). Given that the United States and at least twenty states (Alabama Arizona, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin) operate Supermax facilities, the petitioner would have a heavy burden to shoulder even under the test most sympathetic to him. I suppose that, per Atkins ("[i]t is not so much the number of these States that is significant, but the consistency of the direction of change"), if he could show that several states have abandoned, rather than simply never adopted Supermax facilities, that might attract Breyer and Stevens (who, I have previously noted, have their eyes open for each possible sword stroke in their bid to inflict the death of a thousand cuts on capital punishment) but that might be a bridge too far even for them.

Anonymous said...

Rudolph chose his fate and was deprived of his rights after due process. The same can't be said of his victims.

I'd say justice is being served.

Anonymous said...

Deserving fellow, eh?

Anonymous said...

I suspect the solitary nature of his confinement is purposefully designed to minimize the possibility of communicating to others through coded blinking.

Liam Colvin said...

This is funny, in the sense that it dovetailed right into the argument of "coercive interrogation" vs. "torture". When is one not like the other?

We are talking about punishment. What is punishment vs. what is retribution? One can argue that this is retribution, if one does not look at the people it is being done to. If you see these people as you would your neighbor, then what is being done to them feels wrong. If you take this in the light of their crimes (and what it takes to commit those crimes) then it does not seem nearly as wrong.

I am of the opinion that we are losing the capacity for punishing people for their crimes. We feel that even incarceration is morally wrong, due to the indecency with which the inmates in prison treat each other with. Oddly enough, the Supermax is the only way you can keep an inmate safe from other inmates.

hdhouse said...

is this supermax or ann's con law class?

Pogo said...

Re: "...designed to inflict as much misery and pain as is constitutionally permissible..."

Clearly, the Mad Bomber wonders if he can get more suckers to support his pathologic narcissism. He is trying to take advantage of the good nature of others, not because he believes this crap, but because they do.
"Feel for me, I suffer, when all I wanted to do was kill a few sinners!"

He should have gone to the Permanent Underground Facility instead, where he'll no doubt experience as much misery and pain as is satanically permissible.

Simon said...

hdhouse said...
"[I]s this supermax or ann's con law class?"

It's neither. Care to elaborate?

Anonymous said...

So how come he's only locked up 23 hours a day?

the Rising Jurist said...

Supermax is designed to inflict as much misery and pain...

Much like the nail bomb you set off in a crowded public plaza.

You can't see it, Eric, but I am playing a tiny fiddle for you.

corporate law drudge said...

Not all of those who are incarcerated in supermax prisons are sentenced to life. They will be released some day, mad as hatters, perhaps to live in a neighborhood near you.

Joe Baby said...

And this coming from a guy who lived alone in the woods and rummaged through trash cans. I figured he'd be getting pissed at having so many neighbors.

Eli Blake said...

Joe:

So is life imprisonment in a place like this still more humain than the death penalty?

The argument as to why life imprisonment is better than the death penalty has nothing to do with the humaneness/inhumaneness of either.

It has to do with the fact that a significant number of people who have been sentenced to death have later been exhonerated of the crime (thirteen-- five percent of the death row population, just in the state of Illinois alone.) We had a case like that in Arizona too-- a guy named Ray Krone.

This case is exactly why there should be no death penalty. Recall that for several weeks, a man named Richard Jewell was the exclusive focus of the Olympic bombing investigation. Even when there was evidence that he didn't do it, the FBI and Federal prosecutors clung doggedly to their theory until they had another name to follow, namely that of Eric Rudolph. Suppose that Jewell, like some of those later exhonerated in Illinois, had in fact gone to court and been wrongly convicted. Put him in supermax, and if it later turns out that he didn't do it, you can let him out later. Execute him, and all you can say is, "sorry."

Given how notoriously inefficient government (including courts) can be, it belies logic that we would stake anybody's life on the assumption that it is efficient and not prone to error.

Pogo said...

Eli
Except here, "Rudolph pled guilty to numerous federal and state homicide charges and accepted five consecutive life sentences in exchange for avoiding a trial and the death penalty.

So, no possibility of error is at play here. Rudolph chose Supermax over death. Now he wants a better deal still.

Hunter McDaniel said...

OK, let's stipulate that Eric Rudolph is not exactly a sympathetic character. And while I'm not a fan of the death penalty (mainly because of its irreversibility), Eric Rudolph certainly would have deserved it.

Still, I'd like to see us design an incarceration system that neither coddles the inmates nor drives them insane nor subjects them to rape. Is that too much to ask?

Anonymous said...

Hunter
to answer your question. Yes.

Pogo said...

Re: "Is that too much to ask?"

If you'd ever worked in a prison, around the kind of men who rape and kill without mercy, you'd begin to wonder if that goal is at all possible.

With such men, one can only guarantee freedom from rape and murder in prison by isolation. But isolation is bad, you say....Well, think about (I'm serious here) how zoos design spaces to house males of dangerous species. They never put alpha males in together. A prison has a plethora of alpha males, many lacking any conscience at all.

What to do?
An ugly business, crime.

Anonymous said...

We might have things backwards, I figure. Maybe violent criminals with relatively brief sentences should be put in Supermax for, say, their final year in incarceration, and let them know if they're convicted again, this is where they'll return to. That would probably do more to rehabilitate them than anything a social worker could do.

Guys like Rudolph should be just put in a prison with a lot of tough assholes and live in fear for his life and limb every day.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should do this differently: Put violent criminals with shorter sentences in Supermax for, say, their final year of incarceration, and let them know, this where they'd come back to if convicted again.

Meanwhile, let a guy like Rudolph serve his sentence in one of the medium security prison zoos where threats to life and soul are constant.

P.S. I'm having the worst time posting comments tonight, so forgive me if one just like this one pops up. As far as I know, it's lost, but another comment I made has now appeared four times.

The Drill SGT said...

Life's a Bitch

Eli Blake said...

Guys like Rudolph should be just put in a prison with a lot of tough assholes and live in fear for his life and limb every day.

I doubt it. There is one group of people who don't get raped, terrorized, etc. in prison and it is the prison gang members.

And I strongly suspect that at a regular maximum security prison Rudolf would be welcome to join the Aryan Brotherhood (the same gang that is very happy to count as members those guys from Texas who dragged James Byrd Jr. to death a few years ago.)

And no, that's not a racial statement, there are prison gangs that recruit, Mexicans, Blacks, etc. as well. But I'm just thinking that a white guy with Rudolf's background (dare I say, 'credentials') would almost certainly be recruited by the Aryan Brotherhood (and then be protected by them.)

In contrast to, for example, fellow Supermax inmate Theodore Kaczynski, who would be 'Dahmerized' before you could count to three.

Eli Blake said...

(continuing my previous train of thought)...

Which is probably why he wants out of Supermax, to be honest.

Simon said...

"Guys like Rudolph should be just put in a prison with a lot of tough assholes and live in fear for his life and limb every day."

I sympathize with the sentiment, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea that we should endorse or apologize for prison violence.

Just as we try to prevent prisoners from comitting suicide on the basis that they should be punished for their crimes by judgement of a court of law and a jury of their peers, I don't believe that we should turn our heads the other way from punishments they receive that are not imposed by the courts. That includes both guard brutality and prisoner brutality. To do otherwise, it seems to me, is not dissimilar to handing a convict a noose and a note expecting him to do the right thing: endorsing, even tacitly, such extralegal activities cedes the moral authority of society to define and punish crimes to the discretion of criminals and mob violence.

If we, as a society, think that a child rapist should be be incarcerated and beaten black and blue three times a week, we should have the guts to do it properly: pass a law making incarceration and physical brutalization a punishment for child rape. If the sentence of the court is death, the death row facility should take all steps to keep the prisoner alive until the sentence is carried out, and if the sentence is life imprisonment, my view is that the state should take all possible measures to ensure the physical safety of its guests (which to my mind is one of the principal benefits of the supermax facility). But prisoners should be punished according to the rules: in accordance with the law, as imposed by a judge and jury. Not by lawlessness and mob rule.

Pogo said...

Re: "Not by lawlessness and mob rule."

Excellent point.
Given the ferocity of many inmates, can this be accomplshed without isolation? I speak from ignorance here.

Simon said...

Pogo,
I have no idea. LOL. But I think it's a worthwhile goal.

This is one of those occaisional areas where formalism leads me to results that might be considered "liberal," although I don't think there's anything inherently in tension with law and order conservatism to believe any of the foregoing.

harrisonlatour said...


Walton - Nichols -- Ancestors of Terry Lynn Nichols


Joyce Emma Walton is the daughter of Clarence Sidney Walton, born May 14, 1892 and Emma Schaaf, born September 9, 1895 in Canada.

Joyce Emma Walton married Robert Nichols, and they are the parents of Terry Lynn Nichols.

-----------------------------------

1910 United States Federal Census

Name: Emma Schaaf
Age in 1910: 14
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1896
Birthplace: Canada
Relation to Head of House: Daughter
Father's Name: Andrew
Father's Birth Place: Germany
Mother's Name: Minnie
Mother's Birth Place: Canada
Home in 1910: McKinley, Huron, Michigan
Marital Status: Single
Race: White
Gender: Female
Year of Immigration: 1905
Neighbors: View others on page
Household Members: Name Age
Andrew Schaaf 53
Minnie Schaaf 49
Annie Schaaf 28
Norman Schaaf 24
Edith Schaaf 26
Allan Schaaf 18
Edward Schaaf 16
Emma Schaaf 14

-----------------------------------

Michigan Deaths, 1971-1996

Name: Emma Walton
Birth Date: 9 Sep 1895
Death Date: 9 Mar 1990
Gender: Female
Residence: Mayfield, Lapeer, Michigan
Place of Death: Mayfield, Lapeer, Michigan

-----------------------------------

1900 United States Federal Census

Name: Clarance S Walton
[Clarnece S Walton]
Home in 1900: Attica, Lapeer, Michigan
Age: 8
Birth Date: May 1892
Birthplace: Michigan
Race: White
Ethnicity: American
Gender: Male
Relationship to Head of House: Son
Father's Name: Sidney
Father's Birthplace: Michigan
Mother's Name: Celia L
Mother's Birthplace: Michigan
Marital Status: Single
Residence : Attica Township, Lapeer, Michigan
Occupation: View on Image
Neighbors: View others on page
Household Members: Name Age
Sidney Walton 32
Celia L Walton 29
Clarance S Walton 8
Clayton E Walton 2

-----------------------------------

World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Name: Clarence Sidney Walton
County: Lapeer
State: Michigan
Birthplace: Michigan;United States of America
Birth Date: 14 May 1892
Race: Caucasian (White)
FHL Roll Number: 1675806
DraftBoard: 0
Age:
Occupation:
Nearest Relative:
Height/Build:
Color of Eyes/Hair:
Signature: View


LaTour Ancestry World