Incarceration and serving time in prison is just one sanction that the courts have to punish or deal with offenders or those who commit crimes. Incarceration or imprisonment is the harshest sanction that is imposed on offenders today. In older centuries, criminals and offenders were often publicly shamed and were subject to more corporal styles or methods of punishment, which even resulted in death. Prisons were meant to hold these criminals or offenders while they waited for their punishment and ended up being very crowded. In the colonial time in America, they seldom used institutions for punishment or corrections, and were more likely to enforce banishment, fines, and death. Once the population boomed and expanded in America, which resulted in the urban areas and industrialization, it was becoming hard to control social problems. Penitentiaries were then established to deal with the poor, the insane and the criminals. Since the first inception of the state penitentiary, jails and prisons have just grown exponentially in numbers, evolved, and transformed into being more secure and more permanent over time.
The Establishment of Prisons
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There was a very important innovation in the prison system in the 17th century. This important innovation was the London Bridewell. The types of individuals held in the bridewell were petty offenders, the poor, and disorderly vagrants (Howard League for Penal Reform, 2012). In 1601, England instated the Poor Law, which established that poor people be put in parishes or workhouses, where they would be put to work while confined. Correctional institutions originally stemmed from the Poor Law, which focused on instilling habits of industry by using prison labor. In the 1850's, different countries were imprisoning debtors, juvenile delinquents, and felons in debtors prisons (tripod.com, 2012). Near the end of this century, these individuals ended up in the prison system that was operated by the local Justices of the Peace.
The establishment of state prisons came into place after the Revolution. The penitentiary was developed by English reformers and American Quakers. The first penitentiary appeared in 1790, in Philadelphia (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). The Philadelphia Walnut Street Jail was converted into a penitentiary to permit separate containment or confinement. The penitentiary concerned not only the separate confinement of convicts, but also the more disciplined routine of offenders. This housed the most hardened and atrocious offenders. There were eight small and dark cells on each floor. Inmates in this institution were classified by their offense, and the more serious offenders were then placed in solitary confinement (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). The penitentiary called for the reform of inmates and focused on the power of isolation and labor. Punishment was sentenced according to the severity of the crime (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). The philosophical basis of the penitentiary is; enlightenment, human perfectibility, powers of reason, religious penitence, power of reformation, focus on the act, and the healing power of the suffering (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). Other states started adopting aspects of this penitentiary system and established separate confinement institutions of their own.
The Organization of State Prisons
The organizational structure of a prison is a hierarchy of all staff members, there is a chain and command, and each has their own tasks and duties to accomplish each and every day. The executive branch of each state government administers or operates its prisons. Wardens are the commissioners of state corrections whom are often appointed by state governors and are in charge of operating the prisons (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). The capacity of the state's prisons basically stems from the size of the population of that particular state.
Deputy wardens have the responsibility of overseeing management, custody, programs, and industry. Under these deputies are middle managers and line staff who oversee or run these departments (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). These functions carried out by all of these different staff members are then divided up depending on the size of the prison and the population of the prison. In the organization of prisons there are three different principles that coincide with the hierarchal aspects of prisons, which are the unity of command, the chain of command, and the span of control (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). The unity of command is a principle used by management of the prison organization that a subordinate should report to one supervisor. The chain of command involved a different individual holding a specific amount of authority and they give orders to subordinates, and then these subordinates issue orders to those who are below them (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). The span of control only gives or allows a supervisor to oversee a small group of subordinates. There is also the custodial personnel, the program personnel, and the industry and agriculture personnel in the organization of prisons.
Classification of the Prison System
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The courts require classifications systems in prisons. These classification systems need to be clear, consistent, and complete. The classification system is important because it helps in reducing prison violence, infractions, and in maintaining an overall safer environment for the inmates and the correctional staff (insideprison.com, 2006). The classification process is comprised of several different stages. These stages are the intake assessment, initial classification, placement, and reclassification (insideprison.com, 2006). This process can not only help in the reduction of inmates housed in maximum security prisons, but can also help in deterring the inmates from wanting to escape from the prison.
The intake assessment and the initial classification steps tend to take place in the more maximum security prisons. This is where the inmate is classified into a specific category and put into a security level. These security levels range from minimum, to maximum, and to super-maximum levels of incarceration (insideprison.com, 2006). The initial assessment involves an orientation process, a health assessment, an overview of all of the inmate's documents, and a plan of the inmates sentencing plans and deadlines (insideprison.com, 2006). The initial assessment's emphasis is on establishing and setting the proper and most appropriate sentencing plan for the offender.
Placement and reclassification happen after the intake and classification assessments have occurred. Risk assessment scales are used in this step of the process and the offender is classified on a wide range of static risk factors (insideprison.com, 2006). These risk factors conclude the inmate's risk level, employment history, prior violence, previous record, and where they are at emotionally. They also assess dynamic risk factors which include hostility, anger management issues, antisocial attitudes, and how they get along with their family and friends when classifying them into what security level they should be placed.
Maximum-security prisons are usually built with high walls made of rock or stone, with tall guard towers, and with separate individual cells. These cells either have doors with bars on them, or have electronic doors that are opened and closed with a switch (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). The maximum-security prison usually employs a military-style approach and the prisoners must follow a strict daily schedule or routine. These prisons are built to be permanent and to be built so that inmates are not able to escape. The medium-security prisons look the same as maximum-security prisons when concerning the outside aesthetics of the building. In these types of facilities, the inmates have more privileges and are able to have more contact with the outside world and more emphasis is placed on rehabilitation and work programs (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). When concerning minimum-security prisons, these usually have the least-violent offenders inhabit them. These prisons do not have guard towers and prisoners usually live in dorms and they have much more personal freedom.
Reclassification ensures that the classification is reliable and accurate for the entire year and to ensure that inmates how fall under the same broad risk category are not just lumped together into the same category or level (insideprison.com, 2006). Different factors are taken into consideration in the reclassification step of this process to ensure that inmates are placed in the best possible level or category to get them ready for release out into society.
Funding of State Prisons
Funding for corrections is only one of a multitude of other services operated by the government and paid for by tax revenues. The funding for corrections is in competition against the funding for education, transportation, social welfare, and so on (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). There are also issues or problems between the branches and levels of government concerning corrections. Since local governments deal with more minor offenders and state governments deal with the more serious offenders, they are in competition with each other for funds as well (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). In the 1980's, total state expenses on prisons and prison related activities were $9.6 billion dollars.
Forty percent of state prison construction was funded or financed using the pay-as-you-go method. The other fifty percent was funded by obligation bonds, and ten percent were funded through revenue bonds (Prison Bonds, 2004). There were a number of state and local governments that used lease revenue bonds, which allowed them to get around constitutional and state limits on debts. Lawmakers appropriate these types of lease revenue bonds while the taxpayers pay for it (Prison Bonds, 2004). The average cost of building a new prison cell is roughly around fifty-thousand dollars and this depends on the interest that has incurred to finance it (Justice Policy Institute, 1997). The cost of a prison bed is anywhere from twenty-two thousand dollars to twenty-five thousand dollars every year.
Programs Available in Prisons
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Today there is a variety of different programs that have been implemented in our nation's prisons. Some of these programs are religious programs, substance abuse programs, vocational and educational programs, psychological programs, and group treatment programs (Clear, Colse, & Reisig, 2010). The Bush Administration had implemented the Faith-Based and Community Imitative program, which encouraged religious charities and other non-profit organizations to provide social services and needs (Prater, 2008). Faith based programs, or religious programs, are a way to try and deter inmates from re-offending once they are released from prison. There are states that have opened new prison treatment facilities that are focused solely on religious teaching. According to some inmates religion can provide a psychological and physical safe haven for them and helps them to maintain strong ties with their families and religious volunteers (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). Some correctional staff feel that religious faith based programs can change the motivations and the behaviors of the inmates.
Educational programs and Vocational programs can also be found in state prisons. These programs involve or allow for the inmate to receive education, life skills, and/or training in vocational programs. A study done by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons found that the more educational programs that were completed successfully for every six months an inmate was incarcerated, the lower the chances of recidivism or that they would re-offend once let out of prison (Prater, 2008). I feel that this is one of the most vital programs because offenders make up one of the most undereducated and underemployed groups in the population of the United States (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). These programs help inmates with reading, English, math skills, and the chance at obtaining a GED. Vocational programs are there to teach inmates job skills and like educational programs, can also help in lessening the chances of recidivism.
Substance abuse or treatment programs can be a cost-effective approach and a good approach to the reduction of the recidivism of offenders. CREST, which is a work release and community program focused on therapy, found that the drug treatment portion of their program, concluded in a forty-three percent reduction in recidivism in jails (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). These substance abuse and treatment programs are implemented in phases, that can last anywhere between six and twelve months. There are incentives to this program for inmates to stay involved, as they can earn privileges. These programs include individual psychotherapy, group therapy and vocational rehabilitation (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). There are also professionals who help the inmate plan for release and they have access to treatment after they are released from prison.
State Prisons Growing in Size
States tend to vary in the number, type, and the size of correctional facilities they have. Some of these prisons are larger than others, and some of these state institutions are centralized and others are decentralized. Prisons in the United States today can range anywhere from minimal security prisons to maximum security prisons, and to mental institutions. Between 1980 and 1996, the daily prison and jail populations more than tripled. This tripled from 500,000 inmates to about 1.6 million inmates (Justice Policy Institute, 1997). Between 2000 and 2006, the state prison population has increased annually by 1.7% (The Sentencing Project, 2008). The United States rate of incarceration in 2007 was seven hundred and sixty two individuals out of a population of one hundred thousand individuals. This is the highest reported rate in the entire world.
A large percentage of this population consisted of non-violent and/or drug offenders. In 2004, eighty-two percent of individuals sentenced to state prisons, were convicted of non-violent crimes (The Sentencing Project, 2008). Not only are the rates of incarceration growing exponentially or drastically, but so has the numbers of offenders on probation and parole too. There are now 7.3 million Americans in prison, on probation, or on parole (The Sentencing Project, 2008). States differ in that they may have secure institutions, diagnostic units, work camps, forestry centers, and/or pre-release centers (Cole, Clear, & Reisig, 2010). Other state facilities are comprised of youth facilities, women's prisons, and assignment facilities.
Types of Inmates Incarcerated in State Prisons
When it comes to the types of inmates incarcerated in state prisons research, studies, and data is all quite limited. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "a majority of inmates are men, minority group members, and have been convicted of violent crimes," (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010). In 2007, one in ten black males (between the ages of 25 and 29), one in twenty-eight Hispanic males, and one in fifty-nine white males were in prison or jail (The Sentencing Project, 2008). In 2007, there were over 200,000 women that were in federal and state prisons or local jails in the United States (The Sentencing Project, 2008). There is approximately forty percent of inmates in prisons that do not have high school diplomas or that have not completed high school. Individuals who make up the vast majority of the prison population tend to be recidivists and violent offenders or offenders who have been convicted of violent crimes (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010).