Tag Archives: Supermax

What I Learned in Supermax, a Guest Post from Mary Ellen Johnson

Mary Ellen Johnson met Jacob Ind a few months after he killed his parents at age 15. She’s the director of The Pendulum Foundation, which serves kids serving life. She alternately thanks and curses Jacob for providing entree into a world she never knew existed.

“Something went horribly wrong.”

Jacob’s letter arrived a week after Limon Correctional Facility had been abruptly locked down. Continue reading


From Inside Supermax: Sexuality in Prison (18 of 18)

I recently read some journals from another inmate who estimates that up to 70% of inmates engage in some kind of consensual homosexuality in prison. What do you think of that estimate? How do inmates deal with the effects of long term incarceration and the fact that human beings are sexual beings and in prison there is no normal outlet for that?

I would say that 70% is way too high a number of men who have engaged in homosexual behavior in Colorado. From what female prisoners say, it may even be as high as 80% for them, but not for men. Even in states where homosexual behavior is accepted, I seriously doubt that high of a percentage of men do it. Continue reading

From Inside Supermax: Suicide in Prison (17 of 18)

How common is suicide? What kind of inmate is most likely to commit suicide? How are they able to do it with security cameras, guards and other inmates around?

Suicide is not very common in here due to the stigma of it being “weak”. It happens. I had a friend hang himself here in CSP and I’ve personally known a few others, but I don’t know the frequency (some overdoses are intentional, so the real numbers are hard to determine). Continue reading

From Inside Supermax: Rape in Prison (16 of 18)

It seems to be a commonly held belief that rape is almost an accepted part of prison culture and this horrifies me. How common is it, and how is it possible for rape to occur in a maximum security prison where I assume that either cameras or guards are watching inmates all the time?

Fortunately, rape is not common in Colorado. It definitely happens, but since homosexuality is generally frowned upon by the male prisoners, it is not as common as in states where homosexuality is accepted. Continue reading

From Inside Supermax: Thoughts on Recidivism (15 of 18)

Surely, you’ve seen inmates released and then returned. Why do you think this is so common? There’s a common misconception that the prospect of prison or returning to prison is a deterrent to crime, but I have my doubts. What do you think happens to people that brings them back?

Financial stress is a big reason people come back to prison. One of my first cellies in DOC was back on a parole violation. He violated because his parole officer made him quit a good paying job in a motorcycle shop because it was too far away. A juvenile offender friend of mine was on parole and working on a road construction crew. He was making a lot of money and getting a lot of Continue reading

From Inside Supermax: Thoughts on Reintegrating into Society (14 of 18)

It’s interesting to me that you and two of the other juveniles serving LWOP (and probably a whole lot of other inmates) have said that if you were freed, you’d just want to move to a cabin in the mountains or to a remote ranch or someplace where you could have some peace after having spent so much time in the chaotic environment you’re in. Of course you know that because you’d be on parole and you’d have to get a job right away, you wouldn’t realistically be able to do that. In fact, life would probably be very stressful for you because there would be a lot of pressure to comply with the terms of parole and you’d be dealing with a lot of things you’ve never dealt with before, like learning to drive, getting a license, finding employment and a place to live, finding an entirely new way to interact with other people, managing money and it’s quite possible that you’d also have a certain amount of press attention and notoriety to contend with. Have you been able to consider realistically what kind of external support systems you’d really need in order to “decompress” and make that kind of considerable transition?

I am quite fortunate to have a very supportive network of friends and family. If I were to get out today I would have numerous places I could live, here in Colorado with at least five guaranteed jobs, not to mention that I Continue reading

From Inside Supermax: The High Rate of Incarceration (13 of 18)

The Associated Press just released this: “For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America’s rank as the world’s No. 1 incarcerator.” Yet we don’t seem to be any safer. Have you done any research on why it is that we incarcerate so many people and yet we seem to have more violent crime? Why are we no safer, despite putting growing numbers of supposed criminals behind bars all the time? Are you familiar with crime rates and justice systems in other countries? Why don’t the Europeans have the problems we do?

It is amazing how many people this country locks away and how violent we are. A lot of people point to guns, but I think that is a cop out and avoiding the harder questions; after all, from 1998-1999 Finland had substantially more guns per 100,000 people than America (one of the very few!), but only had half the fire arm deaths per 100,00 (including suicide) that we did. Continue reading