Location: Williamson County, Illinois
Notable Residents: John Gotti, Pete Rose, Zachary Chesser, Clement Hampton-El
Amenities: Became first control unit in the nation after long-term lockdown.
This medium-security prison is situated nine miles south of Marion City, 300 miles from Chicago and 120 from St. Louis. It's operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and has a satellite prison camp in the immediate area that holds medium-security prisoners.
USP Marion was built in 1963, the same year that Alcatraz closed, and was intended to be its replacement. In 1983, it became the first control unit in the U.S. after violence led to a long-term lockdown. The prison was originally designed to be a home for 500 of the most deadly federal criminals, all of whom were transfers from Alcatraz. Unlike Alcatraz, USP Marion aimed to rehabilitate prisoners without abusing them. In 1968, a program named Control and Rehabilitation Effort (CARE) was instituted to modify inmate behavior during incarceration. This led to prisoners spending time in either solitary confinement or "group therapy." "Control units" were introduced in 1973, and prisoners would spend as many as 24 hours a day in a cell to limit their interaction with others.
Five men escaped USP Marion in 1975 using a homemade electronic device that opened the front door, though all were eventually captured and returned to the prison. In October 1983, UPS Marion made headlines again, this time for far something far worse. Merle E. Clutts and Robert L. Hoffman, both corrections officers, were killed just hours apart, stabbed by members of the Aryan Brotherhood. This created a panic, as USP Marion was thought to be the most secure federal prison. The incident triggered a permanent lockdown, the prison became a super-maximum security facility in a flash, with inmates kept in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day and communal dining discontinued. This lasted for 23 years.
In 2006, the prison was downgraded to medium security and renovated, which increased the population dramatically. Though it's no longer a "supermax," it currently has two Communication Management Units to address concerns that the prison was not sufficiently tracking how inmates communicate.