FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Just as there are many different types of crimes that may be committed, there are many different ways a person may be punished and confined for committing a crime. The following is a primer on some of the types and kinds of jails and prisons, and other forms of confinement in America.
Jails and Prisons
- Many convicted criminals are sentenced to
serve time in jail or prison. Generally
speaking, prisons are institutions run by
the federal or state government. Jails, on
the other hand, are institutions run or
utilized by cities or counties.
Note: With limited exceptions, only inmates who are convicted of violating federal laws are sent to federal prisons. Most inmates who are convicted of violating state or local laws are sent to state prisons or city or county jails.
actual setting of any jail or prison varies
according to the type of inmates and the
rules of the particular state or federal
jurisdiction. While all inmates are entitled
to basic necessities, such as food, water,
and toilet facilities, some inmates are also
entitled to privileges such as keeping
radios, televisions, books, and "extra" food
in their cells. In addition, most inmates
are entitled to have contact with other
prisoners, limited access to an outside
exercise yard, the use of indoor exercise
facilities, the use of a library, and other
similar activities. Many jails and prisons
offer "employment" to able-bodied inmates.
In most situations, the employment is menial
labor such as making electrical cables or
license plates for the government.
- Most inmates are also allowed to have visits
from family, friends, and their attorneys,
although the scope of this contact is
determined by the security level and rules
of the institution.
- For most inmates, good behavior in prison or jail is rewarded by giving credit against a sentence and may allow inmates to leave the facility before their actual sentence expires.
Private Jails and Prisons
A number of jails and prisons in America are not run by the government, but are instead owned and operated by private companies under contract with the government. Generally, private jails and prisons are run in the same day-to-day manner of structured inmate schedules and limited contact with the outside world. Private institutions have come under attack from many people who argue that privatization of criminal incarceration facilities is improper, as it allows private individuals to "profit" from crime.
Super-Maximum Security Prisons
The most dangerous inmates are generally kept in super-maximum security prisons or "Control Unit Prisons." In addition to federal super-maximum facilities, many states and counties have also constructed (or adapted existing facilities into) super-maximum jails.
- Most super-maximum facilities require that prisoners in a control unit be kept in solitary confinement for between twenty-two and twenty-three hours per day. The inmates are not allowed to eat, exercise, work, or attend religious services together. The inmates are considered to be in permanent solitary confinement, as opposed to other less-secure prisons where inmates may be placed in solitary confinement for a period of time in order to punish misbehavior. The inmates are given access to medical and mental health care, books, chaplains, and religious materials.
Podular / Direct Supervision Jails
Podular / direct supervision jails, sometimes also called "New Generation" jails, house inmates in units or pods centered around a common multipurpose space, as opposed to being incarcerated in a traditional row of cells. Podular / direct supervision jails operate on the premise that consistent direct supervision of inmates can curb negative behaviors. Obviously, this type of system is not a good method of incarcerating dangerous criminals, as the common interaction areas with other prisoners can lead to additional crimes.
Regional jails are facilities that two or more jurisdictions run together, and which are populated by inmates from those jurisdictions. In some situations, a regional jail may be the only incarceration facility in a particular jurisdiction. In other situations, a jurisdiction may have its "own" jail, and may also send some inmates to a regional facility.
Secure Mental Health Facilities
When an inmate is adjudicated to be insane or mentally incapacitated, they are often sentenced to "serve time" in a secure mental health facility, rather than placed in a normal prison or jail. The purpose of these specialized facilities is dual: they ensure the safety of others if the inmates are considered dangerous, and they ensure that the inmates will receive proper care and treatment for their mental disabilities.
Boot Camp Incarceration
Correctional boot camps (sometimes called "shock incarceration") are an alternative that focuses on deterring future unlawful conduct through a combination of military-style physical training and psychotherapeutic counseling.
some areas, inmates may volunteer for boot
camp as an alternative to incarceration, and
may voluntarily drop out if it is found to
be too tough to handle.
goal of most boot camps is the
rehabilitation of the offender. Boot camps
often use peer pressure in counseling
sessions to reinforce positive behavior and
discourage negative behavior. Many boot
camps are designed to "punish" and
resocialize criminal drug abusers.
- After release from boot camps, most inmates are closely monitored by the appropriate corrections department to aid their reintegration to society. Most inmates placed in boot camps "serve" less time than they would if placed in a typical incarceration facility.
Juvenile Detention Facilities
Generally, underage offenders are placed in juvenile detention facilities. Many of these detention facilities focus on rehabilitation of the juvenile offender, rather than on pure penalization. In some cases, juvenile detention facilities are used to house offenders who commit a crime that, if not for their age, would have required incarceration. In other cases, juvenile detention facilities are used to punish behaviors unique to that age group, such as habitual truancy.
- Juvenile detention facilities are often run
much like a regular prison or jail, with
strict schedules, codes of expected
behavior, and punishment for misbehavior.
- The purpose of placing juvenile offenders in separate facilities from adult criminals is to insulate juveniles from "bad influences," to protect them, and to attempt to curb criminal tendencies before adulthood is reached. However, many juveniles who commit serious crimes and are tried as adults may be placed in juvenile facilities until they reach adulthood, at which time they may be transferred to adult facilities.
Probation and Intermediate Sanctions
Probation, and other intermediate sanctions, are different from incarceration. An example of an intermediate sanction might be community service. An individual convicted of a crime who receives probation, rather than incarceration, will be required to comply with "rules" set down by the court. For instance, the individual might need to participate in counseling or psychotherapy, might have to submit to drug testing, might have to search for and find work, and will have to report regularly to a probation official. If the convicted individual violates the terms of probation or other intermediate sanction, they risk incarceration.