Picture what does jail look like

The gaolers made their money by charging the inmates for food, drink, and other services, and the system was generally corruptible. It was the first facility to make any medical services available to prisoners. With the widely used alternative of penal transportation halted in the s, the immediate need for additional penal accommodations emerged. Given the undeveloped institutional facilities, old sailing vessels , termed hulks , were the most readily available and expandable choice to be used as places of temporary confinement.

The turn of the 19th century would see the first movement toward Prison reform , and by the s, the first state prisons and correctional facilities were built, thereby inaugurating the modern prison facilities available today. France also sent criminals to overseas penal colonies, including Louisiana , in the early 18th century. Katorga prisons were harsh work camps established in the 17th century in Russia , in remote underpopulated areas of Siberia and the Russian Far East , that had few towns or food sources.

Siberia quickly gained its fearful connotation of punishment. John Howard was one of the most notable early prison reformers. He proposed wide-ranging reforms to the system, including the housing of each prisoner in a separate cell; the requirements that staff should be professional and paid by the government, that outside inspection of prisons should be imposed, and that prisoners should be provided with a healthy diet and reasonable living conditions.

The prison reform charity, the Howard League for Penal Reform , was established in by his admirers. Following Howard's agitation, the Penitentiary Act was passed in This introduced solitary confinement, religious instruction, a labor regime, and proposed two state penitentiaries one for men and one for women. However, these were never built due to disagreements in the committee and pressures from wars with France , and gaols remained a local responsibility.

But other measures passed in the next few years provided magistrates with the powers to implement many of these reforms, and eventually, in , gaol fees were abolished.

Quakers were prominent in campaigning against and publicizing the dire state of the prisons at the time. Elizabeth Fry documented the conditions that prevailed at Newgate prison , where the ladies' section was overcrowded with women and children, some of whom had not even received a trial. The inmates did their own cooking and washing in the small cells in which they slept on straw.

In , Fry was able to found a prison school for the children who were imprisoned with their parents. She also began a system of supervision and required the women to sew and to read the Bible. The theory of the modern prison system was born in London, influenced by the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham.

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Bentham's panopticon introduced the principle of observation and control that underpins the design of the modern prison. The notion of prisoners being incarcerated as part of their punishment and not simply as a holding state until trial or hanging, was at the time revolutionary. His views influenced the establishment of the first prisons used as criminal rehabilitation centers.

At a time when the implementation of capital punishment for a variety of relatively trivial offences was on the decline, the notion of incarceration as a form of punishment and correction held great appeal to reform-minded thinkers and politicians. In the first half of the 19th century, capital punishment came to be regarded as inappropriate for many crimes that it had previously been carried out for, and by the midth century, imprisonment had replaced the death penalty for the most serious offenses except for murder.

The first state prison in England was the Millbank Prison , established in with a capacity for just under inmates. By , 54 prisons had adopted the disciplinary system advocated by the SIPD. Pentonville prison opened in , beginning a trend of ever increasing incarceration rates and the use of prison as the primary form of crime punishment. In , the state of Pennsylvania passed a law which mandated that all convicts who had not been sentenced to death would be placed in penal servitude to do public works projects such as building roads , forts , and mines.

Besides the economic benefits of providing a free source of hard labor, the proponents of the new penal code also thought that this would deter criminal activity by making a conspicuous public example of consequences of breaking the law.

How Prisons Work

However, what actually ended up happening was frequent spectacles of disorderly conduct by the convict work crews, and the generation of sympathetic feelings from the citizens who witnessed the mistreatment of the convicts. The laws quickly drew criticism from a humanitarian perspective as cruel, exploitative and degrading and from a utilitarian perspective as failing to deter crime and delegitimizing the state in the eyes of the public. Reformers such as Benjamin Rush came up with a solution that would enable the continued used of forced labor, while keeping disorderly conduct and abuse out of the eyes of the public.

They suggested that prisoners be sent to secluded "houses of repentance" where they would be subjected out of the view of the public to "bodily pain, labour, watchfulness, solitude, and silence Pennsylvania soon put this theory into practice, and turned its old jail at Walnut Street in Philadelphia into a state prison, in This prison was modeled on what became known as the "Pennsylvania system" or "separate system" , and placed all prisoners into solitary cells with nothing other than religious literature, and forced them to be completely silent to reflect on their wrongs.

But by faith in the efficacy of legal reform had declined as statutory changes had no discernible effect on the level of crime, and the prisons, where prisoners shared large rooms and booty including alcohol, had become riotous and prone to escapes. The aim of this was rehabilitative : the reformers talked about the penitentiary serving as a model for the family and the school and almost all the states adopted the plan though Pennsylvania went even further in separating prisoners.

The system's fame spread and visitors to the U. The use of prisons in Continental Europe was never as popular as it became in the English-speaking world , although state prison systems were largely in place by the end of the 19th century in most European countries.

The average inmate serves a three-year sentence — nine months longer than they did in 1990.

After the unification of Italy in , the government reformed the repressive and arbitrary prison system they inherited, and modernized and secularized criminal punishment by emphasizing discipline and deterrence. Another prominent prison reformer who made important contributions was Alexander Paterson [40] who advocated for the necessity of humanising and socialising methods within the prison system in Great Britain and America.

Prisons are normally surrounded by fencing, walls, earthworks, geographical features, or other barriers to prevent escape. Multiple barriers, concertina wire , electrified fencing , secured and defensible main gates, armed guard towers , security lighting, motion sensors , dogs and roving patrols may all also be present depending on the level of security. Remotely controlled doors, CCTV monitoring, alarms, cages, restraints , nonlethal and lethal weapons, riot-control gear and physical segregation of units and prisoners may all also be present within a prison to monitor and control the movement and activity of prisoners within the facility.

Modern prison designs have increasingly sought to restrict and control the movement of prisoners throughout the facility and also to allow a smaller prison staff to monitor prisoners directly; often using a decentralized "podular" layout.

Aranjuez Prison, Aranjuez, Spain

Smaller, separate and self-contained housing units known as "pods" or "modules" are designed to hold 16 to 50 prisoners and are arranged around exercise yards or support facilities in a decentralized "campus" pattern. A small number of prison officers, sometimes a single officer, supervise each pod. The pods contain tiers of cells arranged around a central control station or desk from which a single officer can monitor all the cells and the entire pod, control cell doors and communicate with the rest of the prison.

Pods may be designed for high-security "indirect supervision", in which officers in segregated and sealed control booths monitor smaller numbers of prisoners confined to their cells. An alternative is "direct supervision", in which officers work within the pod and directly interact with and supervise prisoners, who may spend the day outside their cells in a central "dayroom" on the floor of the pod. Movement in or out of the pod to and from exercise yards, work assignments or medical appointments can be restricted to individual pods at designated times and is generally centrally controlled.

Goods and services, such as meals, laundry, commissary , educational materials, religious services and medical care can increasingly be brought to individual pods or cells as well. Generally, when an inmate arrives at a prison, they go through a security classification screening and risk assessment that determines where they will be placed within the prison system.

Classifications are assigned by assessing the prisoner's personal history and criminal record, and through subjective determinations made by intake personnel which include mental health workers, counselors, prison unit managers, and others. This process will have a major impact on the prisoner's experience, determining their security level, educational and work programs, mental health status e.

This sorting of prisoners is one of the fundamental techniques through which the prison administration maintains control over the inmate population. Along with this it creates an orderly and secure prison environment. The levels of security within a prison system are categorized differently around the world, but tend to follow a distinct pattern. At one end of the spectrum are the most secure facilities "maximum security" , which typically hold prisoners that are considered dangerous, disruptive or likely to try to escape.

Furthermore, in recent times, supermax prisons have been created where the custody level goes beyond maximum security for people such as terrorists or political prisoners deemed a threat to national security , and inmates from other prisons who have a history of violent or other disruptive behavior in prison or are suspected of gang affiliation. These inmates have individual cells and are kept in lockdown , often for more than 23 hours per day.


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Meals are served through "chuck-holes" in the cell door, and each inmate is allotted one hour of outdoor exercise per day, alone. They are normally permitted no contact with other inmates and are under constant surveillance via closed-circuit television cameras. On the other end are "minimum security" prisons which are most often used to house those for whom more stringent security is deemed unnecessary.

For example, while white-collar crime rarely results in incarceration—when it does, offenders are almost always sent to minimum-security prisons due to them having committed nonviolent crimes. Some countries such as Britain also have "open" prisons where prisoners are allowed home-leave or part-time employment outside of the prison. Suomenlinna Island facility in Finland is an example of one such "open" correctional facility. The prison has been open since and, as of September , the facility's 95 male prisoners leave the prison grounds on a daily basis to work in the corresponding township or commute to the mainland for either work or study.

Prisoners can rent flat-screen televisions, sound systems, and mini-refrigerators with the prison-labor wages that they can earn—wages range between 4. With electronic monitoring, prisoners are also allowed to visit their families in Helsinki and eat together with the prison staff.

Prisoners in Scandinavian facilities are permitted to wear their own clothes. Modern prisons often hold hundreds or thousands of inmates, and must have facilities onsite to meet most of their needs, including dietary, health, fitness, education, religious practices, entertainment, and many others. Nevertheless, in addition to the cell blocks that contain the prisoners, also there are certain auxiliary facilities that are common in prisons throughout the world.

Prisons generally have to provide food for a large number of individuals, and thus are generally equipped with a large institutional kitchen. There are many security considerations, however, that are unique to the prison dining environment. For instance, cutlery equipment must be very carefully monitored and accounted for at all times, and the layout of prison kitchens must be designed in a way that allows staff to observe activity of the kitchen staff who are usually prisoners. The quality of kitchen equipment varies from prison to prison, depending on when the prison was constructed, and the level of funding available to procure new equipment.

Prisoners are often served food in a large cafeteria with rows of tables and benches that are securely attached to the floor. However, inmates that are locked in control units, or prisons that are on "lockdown" where prisoners are made to remain in their cells all day have trays of food brought to their cells and served through "chuck-holes" in the cell door.

Prisons in wealthy, industrialized nations provide medical care for most of their inmates. Additionally, prison medical staff play a major role in monitoring, organizing, and controlling the prison population through the use of psychiatric evaluations and interventions psychiatric drugs, isolation in mental health units, etc. Prison populations are largely from poor minority communities that experience greater rates of chronic illness, substance abuse, and mental illness than the general population.

This leads to a high demand for medical services, and in countries such as the US that don't provide tax-payer funded healthcare, prison is often the first place that people are able to receive medical treatment which they couldn't afford outside. Prison medical facilities include primary care , mental health services, dental care , substance abuse treatment, and other forms of specialized care, depending on the needs of the inmate population. Health care services in many prisons have long been criticized as inadequate, underfunded, and understaffed, and many prisoners have experienced abuse and mistreatment at the hands of prison medical staff who are entrusted with their care.

In the United States, a million people who are incarcerated suffer from mental illness without any assistance or treatment for their condition and the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend, known as the rate of recidivism, is unusually high for those with the most serious disorders. Some prisons provide educational programs for inmates that can include basic literacy, secondary education, or even college education. Prisoners seek education for a variety of reasons, including the development of skills for after release, personal enrichment and curiosity, finding something to fill their time, or trying to please prison staff which can often secure early release for good behavior.

However, the educational needs of prisoners often come into conflict with the security concerns of prison staff and with a public that wants to be "tough on crime" and thus supports denying prisoners access to education.

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Whatever their reasons for participating in educational programs, prison populations tend to have very low literacy rates and lack of basic mathematical skills, and many have not completed secondary education. This lack of basic education severely limits their employment opportunities outside of prison, leading to high rates of recidivism, and research has shown that prison education can play a significant role in helping prisoners reorient their lives and become successful after reentry.

Many prisons also provide a library where prisoners can check out books, or do legal research for their cases.