State and Federal Prison System

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The State and Federal Prison System
Axia College

Both state and federal prison systems have a long history in the United States as well as a significant presence in modern times as the prison populations for both state and federal prisons continue to grow. State and federal prisons each have their own types of institutions and security levels and house different types of criminals due to their differing jurisdictions over state versus federal prisoners. This paper will discuss the state and federal prison systems and their respective histories, recent growth in prisoner populations, different types of facilities, security levels, and types of criminals. American state prisons were originally used as workhouses where prisoners could work off what they owed to the state for their crimes through hard labor, but the purposes for state and federal prisons eventually shifted towards using prisons with the intention of punishment and incapacitating the criminal by removing them from society. Not surprisingly, many of the ideas for the development of the first prisons in the United States came from England. The history of the American prison system began with the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia, which served as the first prototype for the Pennsylvania model for prisons where prisoners worked at tasks in solitary confinement in order to pay off their debt to society and theoretically reflect upon what they had done (Johnston, 2010). The Pennsylvania Model was based on the more humane approach that had earlier been spearheaded by William Penn, a Quaker, and focused on isolating the prisoners and preventing idleness, which was seen as a key factor in recidivism. However, the first prototype prison system in the Walnut Street Jail was not as successful as its designers had hoped and led to a host of problems such as overcrowding and the problem of prisoners being left idle during the day. Despite this, several states constructed their own penitentiaries and during the early 19th century two state systems quickly became the most popular: the Pennsylvania System and the Auburn System situated in New York. The Auburn system also utilized a rule of silence to control its prisoners but it was less costly and more efficient than the Pennsylvania System, which emphasized the separate confinement for prisoners and took more space. In the Auburn System, prisoners were now contract laborers performing a wide range of tasks and were subject to harsh discipline. The Auburn system eventually became the common model for most prisons in the United States because it ultimately proved to be less costly to operate due to the fact that inmates could work and eat together instead of remaining separate at all times. The Auburn system was later transformed by the Northern and the Midwestern states into the industrial prison model where prisoners worked long hours in prison factories. In addition, post civil war southern states developed Agricultural prisons to manage large farms in the south. In addition, the South and the West developed work camps where prisoners toiled on public roads, cleared roads, and performed other tasks in complete servitude to the state (Foster, 2006). Growth of the prison system continued after the civil war and paved the way to the American system in use today. Overall, over a million people are now confined to state prisons under what is known as the Department of Corrections and most of the growth of the prison population occurred in the last three decades (Foster, 2006). No single model is used for prison management across all of the states and it is difficult to compare recidivism and other information because these factors vary between one state prison system and another (Foster, 2006). Today, prisons are meant to hold prisoners with sentences usually longer than a year and climbing prison populations across the United States have led to overcrowded...
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