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Prison Facts That We Need to Know

Life in prison has changed drastically in the past twenty-five years. In 1986, mandatory minimums for drug crimes were put into law. Arrest rates in general have risen even though prison funding has not risen in concert and crime rates have dropped. Prisons are more crowded, availability to educational programs is being lowered because of financial crises, and inmate on inmate violence is increasing.

Prisons are defined as either state or federal. Generally, life in federal prison is better than life in state prison. Federal prisons have more white-collar criminals and fewer violent criminals so are less dangerous. Federal prisons have better funding and tend to have better accommodations. In the past, there was less over-crowding; however, even federal prisons are facing overcrowding and violence is rising.

The Federal correctional system has four levels of inmates and facilities. Federal Prison Camps, or minimum security facilities, are similar to college dormitories. There are no bars on the windows and movement within the camp is not restricted. In some cases, there is no fence and inmates could even walk off the camp if they chose. Low Security Federal Correctional Institutions have fences and dormitory-style rooms. Medium Security Federal Correctional Institutions often are surrounded by electronic double fences, cells, and higher monitoring of inmates. High security prisons, or United States Penitentiaries, have perimeter walls or reinforced fences, cells, the highest staff-to-inmate ratio, and highly restricted inmate movement. State prisons have similar levels. Specifics vary by state.

Federal administrative facilities are special prisons dedicated to inmates with special needs, such as Federal Medical Centers, or to special programs or administrative needs, such as Federal Transfer Centers and Federal Detention Centers. A variety of levels of inmates may be housed within these different prisons.

Medium and high or maximum level inmates are often housed in different parts of the same facility. These have more inmates and more who have been convicted of violent crimes. More inmates there are serving long or life sentences, factors that add to inmate on inmate violence.

On arrival to a prison, convicts are registered into the prison system and receive a registration number. After an orientation, convicts are assigned a counselor or case manager who manages a team of inmates. The counselor or case manager is responsible for overseeing that the inmate is progressing as he or she should. They make sure inmates are paying restitution and court-ordered financial obligations, that they are cooperating with any drug abuse programs, and are receiving necessary medical care. Additionally, they make sure the inmate is advancing his or her education if necessary. Inmates are often not allowed to leave prison if they have not earned a high school degree, so GED courses and diplomas are available in prison.

Inmates can also work toward technical certificates and college degrees. There are famous cases of inmates earning law degrees in prison and representing themselves to get their convictions overturned. Prisons may offer college courses and degrees themselves. If not, inmates might be able to receive materials from outside prisons through courses paid for by their family. In New York, inmates' access to educational grants has been cut drastically. The majority of inmates cannot afford to pay for college courses so have little hope of earning a college degree.

Without the opportunity to earn a secondary degree, the work an inmate does in prison can become more important for his or her success after release. The counselors try to assign inmates jobs in positions that fit the skills they might already have. Inmates work to support the functioning of the facility such as in the electrical shop, the plumbing shop, or the library. They might do custodial work, kitchen work, or laundry. Some work in Correctional Industries, creating goods or providing services that are sold to civilians. This provides them a chance to earn skills useful upon reentry and to pay whatever financial responsibilities they have. Jobs are for two to seven hours during the day, five days a week. Inmates make between $0.15 and $1.50 an hour.

With the money inmates earn, they can shop at the commissary to buy food, clothing and supplies. Inmates usually bring one outfit to prison, but they might not be allowed to wear it. The commissary sells t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweatpants for inmates to wear.

The commissary offers little meals that can be heated in a microwave. The food served in prison, especially in state prison, is notoriously bad. The biggest complaints are that it is bland and, occasionally, unidentifiable. Due to overcrowding and general increased violence, some facilities serve meals in cells to prevent fights in the dining halls. This leads to food being cold when it is supposed to be hot and hot when it is supposed to be cold. The commissary offers welcome alternatives.

Inmates can receive visitors including family and friends that have been approved by the facility's staff. One-and-a-half to three days each week are allotted to each prisoner for visits on a rotating schedule. Higher security prisons offer more time for visits since sentences are usually longer.

As the quality of life in federal prisons has gone down, some inmates look to special state prisons that offer trailers housed outside of the actual prison building for conjugal and family visits.

Prisoners can call their families for varying amounts of time. Federal prisons allow inmates 300 minutes of call time per month. A limited number of prisons offer access to the Internet and email.

Time allotted to spend outside the convicts' cells varies from unlimited to fifteen minutes depending on the level of security. Minimum-security camps can offer unrestricted access to the outdoor prison areas. Maximum-security prisons might designate only a few minutes for inmates to spend outdoors. Outside, there is usually some fitness facility and equipment.

Indoors, there are fitness facilities, as well, where inmates can engage in sports including basketball, touch football and weightlifting. Sports can become incredibly important for prisoners. ESPN reported on McNeil State Correctional Facility, a medium security prison in Washington State that was known for playing against teams of civilians and consistently winning.

When not allowed outside, prisoners can listen to radios and watch television in the television room. State prisons allow prisoners to keep televisions in their cells. Prisoners, of course, can read and write in their cells. Since multiple inmates are housed in small cells, there is little possibility for doing other things. Even these activities are only possible with the consent of one's roommates.
About Author Jan Brass :

Jan Brass is an expert on prisons and related topics. His expertise extends beyond prisons into industry-specific information, including topics such as torx security screws, products, and other hardware. Visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> to learn more about security, tamper resistant, and tamp

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