How 2 Killers Changed America's Prisons Forever
The Marion prison lockdown paved way for today's Supermax facilities
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Oct 27, 2013 11:03 AM CDT
In this Nov. 13, 2005, photo maintenance employees replace a burned out light in a hallway inside the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Ill.   (AP Photo/The Southern, Chuck Novara)

(Newser) – These days, nearly every state in America has a Supermax facility, places where killers and terrorists are kept in isolated cells almost constantly, in conditions that have sparked lawsuits and raised the ire of groups like Human Rights Watch. How did it get this way? It all started with two killers in the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, Justin Peters writes at Slate. In 1983 Thomas Silverstein and Clayton Fountain, fresh off the murders of two inmates, murdered two guards, in a plot aided by other inmates. The rest of the guards reacted by massively tightening security.

Marion went into lockdown mode, with prisoners forbidden to leave their cells save for 90 minutes of recreation a day—spent mostly in the hallway. Anyone causing trouble was chained spread-eagle to his concrete bed. The guards also exacted their revenge in more immediate ways. "I can't describe to you—I never seen beatings like that," a former guard once said. "At least fifty guys got it … I had inmates ask me how long this madness was going to last. And I said, it better be a permanent lockdown, because when you beat a man like that, he's gonna retaliate." It actually lasted 23 years, ending in 2006. By then, the precedent had been set. Click for Peters' full piece.

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Showing 3 of 18 comments
NoFun
Oct 28, 2013 4:39 AM CDT
Europe has another way of doing things, they treat prisoners well and end up having far less crime. We just brutalize people and become brutalized ourselves. It is a vicious circle that practically guarantees more crime and brings us down to their level.
Ezekiel 25:17
Oct 28, 2013 12:31 AM CDT
It was desperately needed considering that especially in Los Angeles County the bangers who did initiation killings would go into the loosely organized, mostly open cell prisons and would kiss the ground as they entered and would start tearing up from having made it to the BYITA big house. When you have people looking forward to the day they got to go to prison for a serious crime, it was time to change the perception of the place.
clarenccharlie
Oct 27, 2013 10:43 PM CDT
Wish our Hawaiian drug dealers ,drug house mafia etc. get to go here after all they have terrorist ties & they family have killed they may have weapon of mass destruction need to keep they from dying look like A SAFE PRISON IF THEY FRIENDS USE THE WEAPON WHAT CAN I SAY DON'T BREAK THE LAW . they buy and sell from all kind of people .costing us billions KEEP IT LEGAL