supermax (1975)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Thu May 21 19:53:13 UTC 2009

"Supermax" = 'super-maximum-security prison' is much in the news today. OED3
(June 2006 draft entry) has it from 1980 as a noun and 1981 as an adjective.
Here's an adjectival use from 1975:

1975 _Newport (R.I.) Daily News_ 2 Oct. 6/1 [Warwick, R.I.] Mayor Eugene J.
McCaffrey Jr. has emerged as a new backer of a proposed "supermax" prison
facility at the Adult Correctional Institutions. McCaffrey said Wednesday
construction of a super-maximum security building should be a top prison
priority as a way of isolating dangerous or troublesome inmates.

Also from Rhode Island is this nominal use from a 1976 district court case,
appearing in a questionnaire from an inmate at Adult Correctional
Institutions (ACI), Cranston, R.I.:

1976 O'Connell v. Southworth (422 F. Supp. 182, Lexis 12754) 15 Oct. 193 Did
you know that over $200,000.00 has been spent on studies and surveys of the
A.C.I. since Philip Noel took office and NOT ONE of them recommends
construction of a so-called "SUPER-MAX"?

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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