New Federal "Supermax" Prison Opens to House the Toughest Criminals

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NBC Nightly News
Tom Brokaw/Roger O'Neil
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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A new "supermax" prison opens in Colorado to house the most troublesome inmates. Warden John Vanyur describes some of the precautions taken to prevent violence and escape attempts.



"New Federal "Supermax" Prison Opens to House the Toughest Criminals." Roger O'Neil, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 1 Dec. 1994. NBC Learn. Web. 6 August 2018.


O'Neil, R. (Reporter), & Brokaw, T. (Anchor). (1994, December 1). New Federal "Supermax" Prison Opens to House the Toughest Criminals. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from


"New Federal "Supermax" Prison Opens to House the Toughest Criminals" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 12/01/1994. Accessed Mon Aug 6 2018 from NBC Learn:


New Federal “Supermax”Prison Opens to House the Toughest Criminals

TOM BROKAW, anchor (Tampa, Florida):

In Colorado tonight, the nation's newest federal prison is now open for business--the newest, and the toughest, for the hardest of all the criminals. NBC's Roger O'Neil has more on that.

ROGER O'NEIL reporting:

It's been dubbed “Supermax”, and 40 of the nation's most violent prisoners are spending their first day in the most restrictive federal prison ever built. Each man will spend at least 22 hours a day in a cell--alone. Built specifically for the worst of the worst, the $66 million prison in Florence, Colorado will house 484 inmates. They will come here not for their crimes in the street, but what they have done in other prisons.

Mr. JOHN VANYUR (Associate Warden): This is not a country club prison. This is very Spartan and, in many ways, a severe environment, but let me point out that what puts you in here is your behavior.

O'NEIL: Half will be murderers. The other half have escaped or tried to. Seventy percent will have assaulted prison guards or other inmates. At Supermax, the cost per prisoner per year will be at least $32,000--$12,000 more than it costs to take care of other convicts. This place isn't for rehabilitation, although programs are available. It is for control of violent men.

Mr. VANYUR: We don't give them an entire toothbrush. We only give them half of a toothbrush, and the pencils are kept purposely very small because they'll use these type of items as a weapon.

O'NEIL: No inmate leaves a cell unless he is shackled. The furniture is made of concrete, and there's only black and white TV. The courts say it's legal, but prisoner's rights groups say this kind of warehousing will make many even more violent.

Mr. EDELLE CORRINE (Rocky Mountain Peace Center): Most people say that what they focus on is revenge, their anger that occurs because of being treated as an animal in these cells.

O'NEIL: Around Florence, there are now 13 prisons. Inmates outnumber residents two to one. Those who aren't behind bars aren't complaining.

Unidentified man #1: The prisoners don't bother us. They're not getting out.

O'NEIL: No prison is escape-proof, but Supermax may come close. Roger O'Neil, NBC News.