Former Supermax Marion To House Medium-Security Inmates


The federal penitentiary in Marion, Il., which once housed 530 inmates, was a “supermax” institution. Today and for the next four months, it is empty, reports the Marion Daily Republican. Renovations are under way for new tenants to arrive early next year. The prison is changing from a maximum-security to a medium-security facility. At a prison camp on the premises, there is no razor wire or fence; an administrator said, “It’s pretty much the honor system with the understanding that if they choose to walk away, we’ll transfer them to a higher-security level institution behind wire and we would seek prosecution.”

Forty-three years ago, Marion, became famous as national media outlets flocked to get a glimpse of the new high-security prison that would replace Alcatraz. Marion was the first maximum-security prison in the country to go into a permanent state of lockdown, which spurred other facilities to lock down inmates for more than 20 hours per day. Many physical barriers in the maximum-security facility will soon be replaced or eliminated because of the new lower-security inmates who will take up residence in the modified prison. The new population is expected to rise to 900. “It costs $116 per day to house an inmate here,” said prison camp administrator Kevin Murphy. “That’s the highest price of any prison in the bureau. The only one close to it is in Florence, Colorado, but most of that money is salaries and expenses. It’s a costly proposition to house inmates here at Marion.”


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