Prisons – Criminal Justice
This paper talks about the state and function of contemporary prisons. By talking about the structure, types and population in incarceration facilities, this paper aims at enlightening the student about the dynamics of contemporary law and justice.
Functions of contemporary prisons
National surveys define a jail as a facility or a place, under local administration and jurisdiction, authorized to detain convicts and those arraigned in courts. This is also what sets them apart from other private and public facilities, such as lockups, camps, and other institutions. They may also be used to temporary detention and housing inmates when nearby prisons and facilities are overcrowded CITATION Law15 l 16393 (Law J Rank Staff, n.d.).
Jails serve four primary functions: one, they are used to house people who might be detrimental to the safety of the society. Additionally, they do not just punish criminals for their crime but are also supposed to change and rehabilitate them mentally and emotionally, so they do not disrupt the social order after being re-introduced to the society CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
Thirdly, they provide employment to the local community members. People from neighbouring societies, especially those that face frequent financial challenges may find steady work at a prison. They may also serve as a good guidance centre for those wishing to pursue a career in law, crime, and corrections CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
Types of Jails
Correctional facilities are categorized according to their security levels. There are minimum security prisons, which have more relaxed rules and regulations than other types of facilities. Inmates are allowed communal showers and toilets, can go to school and take classes, and even permitted to take up outside jobs CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
Medium security prisons have tighter security than minimum security facilities, but still allow access to most of the activities as taken up by inmates in the latter, albeit under constant surveillance CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
Maximum security prisons are much more restricted than either of the above. Inmates are usually placed in single or double mate cells, and all movement is monitored from a remote location. They are let out of their cells for one hour each day, during which they are restricted in a cage or other such confinements. There are also two types of segregations: isolation, which is used to punish the inmate by keeping him/her away from all activity and contact; and administrative segregation, levied upon an inmate when authorities are of the opinion that he or she may be dangerous to other inmates. Prisoners are, however, allowed to take up a limited number of activities, such as vocational classes CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
Supermax prisons are extremely high security facilities, built to contain the most dangerous inmates as decreed by the government. Facilities in such prisons are severely limited: all furniture is constructed out of cement. Objects suspected to be used as potential weapons, such as toilet seats, and even soaps, are removed from the inmate’s presence. Cells are built such that prisoners can see neither each other nor the view outside. Steel bars and high walls are built to deter escapes. Additionally, such facilities also have Security Housing Units constructed to contain two types of inmates: those under Administrative Detention, deemed to be a danger to other inmates; and the ones under Disciplinary Segregation, who have been isolated after violating a prison rule CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
Why is it difficult for a new inmate to adjust to prison?
The main reason inmates find it difficult to adjust to the prison environment is the complete segregation from society and any social activity, save for those which go on inside the prison walls. In fact, prisons in the United States are treated as institutions, that is, as their worlds, with a set of rules and protocols characteristic only of them. Thus, it is hard for inmates to adjust to the constant surveillance, scrutiny, and rules. Additionally, the lack of activities inside the cell also makes many inmates ‘stir crazy’. They are let out only for a limited amount of time, after which their world is limited to the four walls of their cell, devoid of any worldly comforts CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
There is, also, the issue of self-preservation. Prisons witness the formation of a gang culture, which divides the inmates along the lines of race, colour, and creed. Rather than being segregated, most prisoners prefer to stay safe by joining one group or the other. This becomes a major part of their defensive lifestyle CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
Rise in the number of female inmates
The older judicial systems favoured the women such that they did not have to spend much time in jail, or were sentenced in ways different than men. However, with the times changing, more gender neutral laws have come into play, which have contributed towards increasing the population of female inmates in prison.
While not usually brought in for serious charges such as murder, women are often detained on charges of conspiracy and partaking in the course of a crime. In some cases, she may also be convicted for being the designated driver on the night of the incident. Furthermore, women are less likely than men to opt for a plea arrangement, another factor that has contributed to the rise in the number of female inmates CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
Additionally, judges have also started considering the sentencing guidelines more frequently in case of women, thus depriving them of chances to escape prison on the basis of family ties and employment records CITATION Sie14 l 16393 (Siegel & Bartollas, 2014).
BIBLIOGRAPHY Law J Rank Staff. (n.d.). Jails – Contemporary Jails. Retrieved September 3, 2015, from Law.jrank.org: <a href=”http://law.jrank.org/pages/1400/Jails-Contemporary-jails.html”>Jails – Contemporary Jails</a>
Siegel, L. J., & Bartollas, C. (2014). Corrections Today . Wadsworth : Cengage Learning .