Are Prisons Driving Prisoners Mad?

Maximum-security confinement may be pushing already unstable criminals -- "the worst of the worst" -- toward mental breakdown. And that's not good for any of us

Olivia Ogren / Wisconsin State Journal / AP

A SuperMax prison in Boscobel, Wisconsin.

There's no such thing as a good day for a prisoner at the highest level of security within the Ohio State Penitentiary, a 504-bed supermax prison in Youngstown, Ohio. Every inmate lives alone in a 7-ft. by 14-ft. cell that resembles nothing so much as a large, concrete closet, equipped with a sink, a toilet, a desk and a molded stool and sleep platform covered by a thin mattress. The solid metal door is outfitted with strips around the sides and bottom, muffling conversation with inmates in adjacent cells. Three times a day, a tray of food is delivered and is...

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