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Friday, May 05, 2006

Welcome to the Neighborhood, Zac!

I have some of the most interesting neighbors on the planet. First, the Bomber family: Una, Shoe, Olympic, Oklahoma City, 1993 World Trade... Next, some world-class gang leaders, traitors, and mass murderers. It sounds like a rough place to live, but they pretty much keep to themselves. They have to.

I live about a mile north of Supermax, America's highest-security prison. It's a death sentence for the living and Zacarias Moussaoui's new home. Remember Alcatraz? It's sorta like a bad summer camp compared to Supermax. How's 23 hours of total isolation in your cell sound? Sure, you can spend an hour getting exercise, if you're willing to put up with the pre- and post-workout body cavity searches. Prison cells are built so you never make eye contact with another inmate. You don't go anywhere without being shackled at the wrists and ankles and escorted by two of the best guards in the federal prison system.

Prisons, at their best, rehabilitate. But at Supermax, where prisoners have no chance for parole, what's the point? There are some human rights organizations who work hard to see that the treatment of these prisoners is fair (which I admire), but I think most people just want them locked up and put out of their minds forever. So they come here, to Florence, Colorado, and live out the rest of their days in a 11x7 cell. The prosecution in the Moussaoui trial argued for the death penalty, stating "There is no place on this good earth for this man." The jury disagreed, knowing there was at least one place.

Washington Post's SuperMax Coverage