Coming to the Boscobel Supermax

By an inmate in WI

This essay was originally published at the FFUP website in 2005, but since the host will be closing down, we wanted to re-publish it here.

It was a dark, gloomy, overcast morning that greeted me as I awoke May 6, 2003. And the prognosis for the rest of the day didn’t appear to be any better. Because today was to my the last day in Racine Correctional Institution. I was due to depart to the Boscobel Supermax! Ever since I first had the fight, which landed me in the hole with a battery charge and I got 8 days seg, 360 days disciplinary separation, there had been a feeling of impending dread.

There was little doubt in my mind to what would be my fate. Often times I had hastily made that declaration in the heat of an argument- ‘I’ll be going to Boscobel Supermax and you’ll be going to Mercy Hospital.’ It was one of my favorite sayings. How could I know that it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy in a matter of days.

So here I was, stark naked in a cell at 5:30, I am preparing to leave. The stories about the place abounded, and although I had already done lots of hole time in lots of joints around the country, this place invoked thoughts of doom deep inside me. All those that were unfortunate enough to be headed for the Supermax were stripped, shackled, and placed in a transport van. It was pouring out as we struggled to board the van. The ride began slowly as we made our way out of the institution and no one said a word as we all looked out the window lost in our individual thoughts. My thoughts were that this really won’t be so bad. ‘Damn, I messed up.’

As we ventured down the back roads, the somber moods seemed to lighten and we began to comment on the different homes and vehicles we saw. Things really picked up as we made a pit stop at a gas station, that had several cute girls standing around. Surprisingly, we talked all the way there with very little room for pause.

As we neared the town of Boscobel, things began to tense up, you could fell it in the air, the only thing to relieve the tension was when we saw this black guy walking down the streets of a small town outside of Boscobel. The sign read: Boscobel 11 miles, as we crossed over the Wisconsin River, and we all began fading from the conversation to enter into our own thoughts. Once again, I was thinking how beautiful this area was, with its rolling hills full of trees, open plains full of crops and small valleys- I had never seen anything like it before. This is the perfect place to live- except if you are in Boscobel Supermax.

We turned off the two- lane highway and out across the town. There wasn’t too much to see until we headed toward another grove of trees only to discover that’s where they built the joint. Upon first glance it appeared to be like all the rest of the prisons I had seen, but upon closer inspection, the outside didn’t seem right. First of all, Boscobel doesn’t have any of the ascetic needs of other joints so its looks are as stern as the rest of it.

After an amusingly long and thorough search of the van we were allowed to proceed from the gatehouse to the sally port. An all I could think of was: ‘Who would want to sneak up on this joint? What a joke.’ Even the officers from RCI were amazed at the security measures. Once we reached the sally port, the doors opened and 6 or 7 Boscobel officers were standing there. The white shirt called out a name and one of the guys got off the van and was immediately surrounded by the Boscobel staff and taken into the building. It was really as extreme as it sounds. They literally all took hold of him, as if the cuffs, waistband, and shackles weren’t enough to restrain us.+

Then it was my turn. The same exact thing happened to me- every single guard placed his hand upon me as if I was Hannibal Lector!

Once inside, we were placed in strip cells and searched again. And from there they escorted me to my new home on alpha unit. There was an announcement over the PA that said two officers and one inmate were en route to Alpha. As I walked down a very long, brightly lit corridor, the officer instructed me not to look anywhere but straight ahead or else I would be taken down+ immediately.

We finally reach our destination: the alpha pod. I was placed in a cell in the fourth range. There was a concrete slab for a bed with a rather comfortable looking mattress; there were two cut away cubbyholes for storing personal items, a stainless steel toilet and sink combination which I always hate because of the cold on your butt when you flushed.

There were only two windows which one could peer out although there was little to see. I could look across from me into the adjacent room- a vestibule between two cells. But there didn’t seem to be anyone in there. The other window was a small cut on the wall which allowed access to the hallway. I could see only two other windows with the name of occupants posted under them.

After taking a nap, I heard some voices, which sounded as if it were right in the room with me. So I sprang up to discover I was alone and that the voices were coming out of the vents. Some guy with a harsh, crackling voice was calling me I think, ‘Hey, Young Blood.’ He said. I said, ‘I’m not no young buck dude- I’m 40 some years old.’ ‘Oh, I thought you were young, that’s why I said that,’ he responded. He told me who he was and gave me a crash course in how to do Supermax time. The things he said did help later on. But this was still about the most difficult time I’ve had to do and mainly it was because of the inmates- the kind of guys that get into the vent and talk for hours just crankin’ out.

Because of the sensory deprivation, things take on a new meaning. Just to see people was a big bonus even if they were just guards. To hear people talk about real events, since there were no newspapers, TV news or radio to keep you informed**, I know why so many guys go completely insane within this kind of environment. It’s because that’s what it’s designed to do- drive you crazy.

If I had not been for my faith in God, and through the help of some lovely people like FFUP, I might have lost my senses or lost my will to go on or to make the most of this situation. But I made it out of Boscobel and with the grace, mercy and love of God, I will soon make it home again.


+ taken down- tackled, pushed to the floor by all escorting guards- this is the ‘face forward policy’ and it causes much difficulty.

** Boscobel runs on a deprivation system called ‘the level system.’ Inmates are allowed more materials as they progress, although they never get to see or read local news and the TV channels are very limited. They only have a pen nib to write with. Even in the highest levels, this is a life of extreme deprivation.

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