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We wish more correctional departments were as willing to receive and respond to outside perspectives on prison operations.
We also with to express our gratitude to the lawyers and activists, particularly the members of the Northwest Indiana Coalition to Abolish Control Unit Prisons, and Charles Carney of the Eighth Day Center for Justice, who have sought to improve conditions for Indiana's prisoners and who have shared insights and information with us.
But in corrections, as in other spheres of government, there are no easy solutions.
Without guidance and control by principled authorities, super-maximum security prisons can become as lawless as the prisoners they confine.
We assess the extent to which they comply with the human rights standards contained in international conventions to which the United States is a party and, in so doing, we hope to assist the people and government of Indiana evaluate their legality, wisdom, and impact.
We also hope to contribute to the debate, nationally and internationally, regarding the proper treatment of disruptive and dangerous inmates.
Research for the report was undertaken by Joanne Mariner; Jamie Fellner; Juan Méndez, former general counsel of Human Rights Watch and current executive director of the Inter-American Institute for Human Rights; Allyson Collins, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch; Joanna Weschler, U. representative for Human Rights Watch; Gil Chachkes, a private attorney; Professor Garth Meintjes, director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights of Notre Dame University; Terry Kupers, M. Human Rights Watch wishes to thank the many prisoners at the MCF and the SHU who spoke with us freely and extensively.
Fulwiler enabled us to understand the mental health of prisoners they interviewed and to assess the pscyhological impact of prison conditions on them.
Although conditions and policies vary somewhat from facility to facility, their common characteristics are extreme social isolation, reduced environmental stimulus, scant recreational, vocational, or educational opportunities, and extraordinary levels of surveillance and control.
This report was undertaken with the cooperation of Physicians for Human Rights. Fulwiler joined the research team in July 1997 as a representative of Physicians for Human Rights. Cynthia Brown, program director at Human Rights Watch, edited the report.
It was written by Jamie Fellner, associate counsel of Human Rights Watch and Joanne Mariner, associate counsel of Human Rights Watch. Christina Portillo, associate at Human Rights Watch, provided production assistance.
Rather than looking for constructive ways to help these prisoners develop the ability to live peaceably with others, correctional systems in the United States have turned with a vengeance to what some call "high-tech cages," in the pursuit of total security and control.
Human Rights Watch has observed the burgeoning use of super-maximum security facilities with concern.
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Unable to adjust to the myriad rules and powerful stresses of prisonlife, mentally ill prisoners often accrue disciplinary records that lead to their placement in super-maximum security facilities.