California Department of Corrections
Inmates in Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit. Those who defect from gangs can qualify for transfer to other prisons with special facilities for gang dropouts.
Supermax prisons are places of stark isolation, where some of the most dangerous convicts are housed. At Pelican Bay prison in California, the men in the Supermax are locked in windowless cells for 22 or 23 hours a day, with almost no direct contact with other inmates or staff. Officials say most of them are members of prison gangs.
Despite the isolation, gangs remain active at Pelican Bay. And once a prisoner is in a gang, it's tough to get out. It's also dangerous. Michael Montgomery of American RadioWorks reports that at Pelican Bay, gang members are made to choose between staying in lockdown or betraying their gang.