Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Kevin I. Minor

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


In the past few decades, there has been a proliferation of supermax prisons and units across the nation, reflecting the increased use of administrative, isolated segregation. This proliferation is embedded within a broader shift in society towards more punitive measures of disciplining those people convicted of criminal offenses. The primary purpose of this thesis is to examine the proliferation of supermax confinement as a major component of the punitive shift. This is done primarily through the application of contemporary literature that focuses on the sociology of punishment theory. Another purpose of this thesis was to examine and describe the history and current status of supermax prisons and units. To accomplish this, secondary data sources were used to collect information about the various correctional institutions throughout the US that utilize this type of confinement. It was also the intent to see what aspects of supermax confinement need to be addressed further through research. As a result of this, a literature review is provided discussing what academic literature has provided thus far. The conclusions show that the punitive shift in society that brought about the use of supermax confinement resulted from a discontent with late modernity and is perpetuated through the cultural landscape that has thus far been created. Further findings showed that at least 37 states have at least one correctional facility that utilizes supermax confinement, which demonstrates that there has indeed been a movement towards the use of supermax confinement.