Dr Sharon Shalev, a fellow at the Mannheim Centre for Criminology at LSE, has been awarded the prestigious British Society of Criminology's Book Prize for 2010 for her book Supermax: controlling risk through solitary confinement.
The prize is awarded annually to a publication that makes a valuable contribution to the further development of criminology. Supermax is the first book to offer a comprehensive examination of the supermax phenomenon and calls for an urgent review of the use of solitary confinement as a prison tactic.
Supermax prisons officially operate to protect society from its most violent and dangerous criminals but in reality are also used to house petty non-violent offenders and the mentally ill. Drawing on interviews with both prisoners and prison staff as well as health professionals and human rights experts, Dr Shalev examines the theory, practice and consequences of these prisons.
The book argues that those who aren't mentally ill on entering supermax prisons often become so, some after quite short periods of time, and the mental trauma caused by the extreme conditions can lead to individuals, most of whom will be released back into the community, becoming more damaged and aggressive rather than less of a threat to society.
The panel of reviewers judged the shortlisted books on a range of issues, including their overall contribution to theoretical, methodological and policy debates as well as originality, importance and strength of arguments.
One reviewer of the book stated: 'This is important stuff. There is, as the book acknowledges, a real possibility that supermax will occur by stealth with little accountability or public debate...[the book] highlights an important and disturbing development and analyses it with great acuity. It is also good to see classic labour intensive criminological inquiry. I did not only find it informative, but I also felt affected by it.'
Another wrote: 'This is a beautifully written, scholarly piece of work. ...I am not aware of any other book which makes such an in-depth analysis of the control of risk through isolation at first hand and from so many perspectives (prison officials, prisoners, ex-prisoners, mental health professionals, human rights experts etc). This really is a highly original book and the author is to be congratulated.'
Dr Shalev said: 'I am thrilled to have been awarded this prize by the British Society of Criminology. Supermax prisons are extreme places which brutalise both prisoners and prison staff. They are excessive, expensive, ineffective, and they drive people mad. Rather than building more supermax prisons, it is time to acknowledge the failures of solitary confinement and the damage it inflicts, and reject its use as a legitimate prison practice in all but the most exceptional circumstances. I hope that the book will contribute to this end.'
Contact: Sharon Shale> S.Shalev@lse.ac.uk
Jess Winterstein, LSE Press Office, 020 7107 5025, firstname.lastname@example.org
Supermax: controlling risk through solitary confinement by Dr Sharon Shalev is published by Willan Publishing. Seehttp://www.willanpublishing.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9781843924081