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THE WOMEN OF SUPERMAX

COLORADO'S HIGHEST-SECURITY PRISON ISN'T JUST FOR TOUGH GUYS.

"My feeling is that they want to fill up the place," Donner says. "After all, they have the beds."

McDonough, though, points out that the number of women in CSP has dropped substantially since Donner's group conducted its survey. As of last week there were only five women in supermax: Janice Haught, Shannon Irwin, Debra Brown, Cheryl Curtis and Elizabeth Parker. Four have lengthy records of rules infractions ranging from assault to drug abuse to "advocating facility disruption."

"They're not there because of lack of beds elsewhere," McDonough says. "They're there because of their behavior."

But the fifth resident of the women's unit, Parker--a 45-year-old inmate serving a ten-year sentence for a 1989 assault conviction--is not as easy to account for. Parker was sent to CSP in 1993, shortly after it opened, even though her record indicates only two prior rules infractions--and none since 1990. She received one more write-up (for "disobeying a lawful order," McDonough says) shortly after arriving at CSP. Despite monthly reviews of her status, she's been in isolation ever since.

Lehman, who's been involved in administering supermax-type facilities in several states, concedes that isolation may not be the best solution to some "management problems" and can, in some cases, make matters worse. "My big concern is that there has to be some element of programming offered," he says. "You may be able to control a person's behavior by putting him in [isolation], but that person still represents a risk to the institution. And sometimes what you get is a self-fulfilling prophecy."

The corrections committee Lehman chairs is now trying to develop national standards for the operation of supermax prisons. "There's been some recognition out there that we ought to be looking at this," he says.

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