Even in the context of a nation in lockdown, the state of Colorado stands out for the sheer number and visibility of its supermax prison facilities. Colorado is home to the federal government’s most famous supermax, the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, commonly known as ADX. The nearby Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP) has a 750-man lockdown unit that was featured in the recent National Geographic Explorer documentary on solitary confinement. And on September 1, the state will open CSP II, which will hold more than 300 solitary confinement cells. Remarkably, all of these prisons–and several others–are located in a single county, Fremont County in rural south central Colorado. (Fremont and its county seat, Cañon City, are the subject of an interactive web documentary called Prison Valley.)
CSP II was the subject of controversy and protest earlier this year, when cash-strapped Colorado made deep cuts to education and other state services, but managed to come up with the $10.8 million to open the new prison. This, in part, is the subject of this essay by Clair L. Beazer, an inmate in Administrative Segregation at CSP. He sent this piece, which he calls “Lock Downs and Monsters,” to Lois Ahrens of the Real Cost of Prisons Project, along with a note that explains: “ Here in the lock-down (Administrative Segregation) I receive no earned time and good time is dependent on discretionary parole where 99% don’t receive discretion. Colorado will be opening its new C.S.P. II even though it costs three times as much to house someone like this. Colorado already has double (or more) the national average of these types of cells.”
In a recent hour long broadcast on the National Geographic Channel, Colorado’s C.S.P. (Colorado State Penitentiary) maximum security lock-down facility was featured. At one point its warden Susan Jones described the isolation of the penitentiary’s inmates as part of a behavior modification program. Indeed, she then further described the main focus of the facility’s reason for existing as a form of behavioral modification and her responsibilities as the supervisor of this “program.”
Of course, as a measure of any purpose or program there must be a number who fail and those that succeed in having modified their behavior. She never actually utters what percentage that is, as any person proud of a success would, and with good reason. That reason is because very, very few succeed in a grim, draconian program that is based on an isolation that exacerbates every phobia, psychosis, psychopathology, and antisocial tendency already run rampant among them.
Furthermore, it would be obvious to any unbiased perspective that any behavior modification “program” that fails to modify behavior is an outright and abject failure. Moreover, one that magnifies and grievously worsens and increases antisocial behaviors that it is specifically designed to “modify” is a travesty and a behavior modification “program” in name only.
In addition many courts have found that this type of incarceration to be unconstitutional, and those of us unfortunate to be suffering through it can testify that is it both cruel and very unusual.
The fact that Colorado will now expand upon its hidden failure is outrageous! After building the new C.S.P. II, the state finds it must now fund this albatross to the tune of what will eventually amount to billions and is the most expensive, inefficient and ineffective program in the entire state.
How could this be, and where in the world would such a foolish failure see the light of day? Right here in the incarceration capital of the world where failure is not only rewarded, it is now being duplicated with the soon to open C.S.P. II.
Here in the home of sinecure, base of the prison of the prison industrial complex, the public pays: Pays to put the inmates in prison, pays for the upkeep and millions in salaries. Pays for the duration of the stay, and if that isn’t enough they will pay yet another pound of flesh when these modified monsters are unleashed back onto the public after being warehoused for years and building their frustration, anger and enmity.
In Mary Shelley’s classic man/monster tale, Dr. Frankenstein slowly assembled his monster piece by piece as Colorado now does on a much larger scale. Up here in the rarified air they call it job security, and the Department of Corrections is our personal Dr. Frankenstein in woefully misnamed Freemont County.
The author welcomes mail and can be contacted at: Mr. Clair L. Beazer, C.S.P. #49801, P.O. Box 777, Canon City, CO 81215-0777.