Date of Award

Fall 12-2011

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Criminal Justice


Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, and Security

Committee Chair

Wes Johnson

Committee Chair Department

Criminal Justice

Committee Member 2

Hayden Griffin

Committee Member 2 Department

Criminal Justice

Committee Member 3

Philip Carlan

Committee Member 3 Department

Criminal Justice


Super-maximum security prisons have flourished within a political environment that endorses tougher criminal sanctions. This punitive evolution has created new problems for correctional agencies attempting to control the “worst of the worst” inmates. Federal courts and researchers have examined the detrimental effects supermax isolation has on inmates’ mental health. This analysis examines forty-two state supermax policies to determine how states admit inmates to supermax custody, the classification review process, the management of inmates with mental illnesses, and the availability of privileges for supermax inmates. Drawing on the concept of the McDonaldization of Justice (Ritzer, 1993), particular attention is given to understanding the role of official policy and procedures on managing problematic inmates. Guided by previous research on supermax penitentiaries, the correctional policies have been aggregated regionally to provide insight into geographical differences for the operation of supermax units. Policy implications for establishing more inclusive and thorough rules and regulations for the admission, review, and management of supermax units are discussed.