Against Supermax

Journal of Applied Philosophy 21 (2004): 109-24

Posted: 15 Dec 2012

Date Written: 2004


Supermax prisons subject inmates to extreme isolation and sensory deprivation for extended periods of time. Crime reduction and retributive arguments in favor of supermax confinement are elaborated. Both types of arguments are shown to falter once the logic of the two approaches to the justification of legal punishment is made clear and evidence about the effects of supermax confinement on inmates is considered. It is also argued that many criminal offenders suffer from defects in their capacities for morally responsible action, lack sufficient opportunities to remain law-abiding, or are understandably alienated from society and the prison regime. The implications of this more realistic picture of offenders for supermax confinement are then explored briefly.

Keywords: imprisonment, crime reduction, retributivism, cruel and unusual punishment

Suggested Citation

Lippke, Richard, Against Supermax (2004). Journal of Applied Philosophy 21 (2004): 109-24, Available at SSRN:

Richard Lippke (Contact Author)

Indiana University ( email )

Department of Criminal Justice
Bloomington, IN
United States
812-856-6049 (Phone)

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