Qualitative Phenomenological Study of Inmates' Lived Experience in a Supermax Program

Qualitative Phenomenological Study of Inmates' Lived Experience in a Supermax Program

Author: 
Karen L. Franke
Program of study: 
D.B.A.
Abstract: 
The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological research study was to explore the lived experience of inmates housed in the Intensive Management Unit (IMU) program in a prison located in the northwest. Prisoners are assigned to the IMU program for behavior, which threatens the safety and security of the general population. The data collection process consisted of interviewing inmates, who successfully have completed the program, and were released from the IMU high-security prison complex to other state prisons within the northwesterly Department of Corrections (DOC). A pilot study of five inmates was conducted and their responses were not included in the final data. The open-ended, nonstructured interviews of 27 inmates were conducted at five different prisons located within one state in the Northwest. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using Moustakas’ (1994) modified van Kaam method of analysis and the NVivo 10 research software. Through careful analysis and coding six themes and four sub-themes emerged. The six themes, which emerged from the study are (a) Program Effect on Inmates, (b) Coping Mechanisms, (c) Packet Effectiveness in Promoting Change, (d) Staff/Inmate Interactions, (e) Remaining in General Population, and (f) Post-Program Experience. The four sub-themes are (a) Correctional Officers, (b) Correctional Counselors, (c) Behavioral Health Services, and (d) Religious Services. The study results may assist corrections management in identification of the weaknesses and strengths of the program. Recommendations include development of incentives to reduce the effects of extreme isolation. DOC officials might consider creation of a training program designed to increase staff awareness of psychological changes, which often occur within individuals living in isolation.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this work to my family, who supported and encouraged me throughout my doctoral journey. The sacrifices my children and grandchildren made when I could not participate in an activity because an assignment was due are moments that cannot be recaptured. Thank you for your patience with me as I spent late nights and long hours studying. Thank you for the sacrifice of turning down the TV or speaking softly because I was in the middle of preparing an assignment. Thank you for encouraging me to continue toward my dream and goal. I appreciate your support.
Acknowledgements: 
I was encouraged and strengthened by Yahweh Elohim through Yahushua and the Ruach HaKodesh to keep moving forward even when I was tired and wanted to give up. He placed within me the dream of obtaining a doctoral degree and provided the strength to continue the journey in the face of many obstacles, constantly confirming the Creator’s will in pursuing this dream. Thank you, dear Savior for giving me the strength to pursue your plan for my life. I acknowledge my church friends and friends from Aglow who prayed and cheered me on when I shared frustrations and stress when challenged and stretched by school and work assignments. I also acknowledge University of Phoenix affiliates for the support and encouragement they provided. Thank you to my committee chair, Dr. Subhashis Nandy, and committee members, Dr. Naggiar and Dr. Shaykhian, for sharing knowledge and time with me throughout the dissertation process. Thank you to my advisors, professors, and colleagues for sharing your expertise with me. Thank you to fellow student, Greg Ilag who provided encouragement and insight throughout the learning process. I acknowledge my employer and direct supervisor, A. Pinkley-Wernz for allowing me the time to attend residencies and to conduct the research necessary for the completion of the research project. I also acknowledge the participants in the study and extend thanks for sharing their lived experiences with me.