A World Apart: Inside Penitentiary

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A World Apart
Farrah Anglada-Lauer
Axia College of University of Phoenix

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The first penitentiary was opened in a wing of the Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Jail in 1790. This penitentiary operated with the belief that silence and labor was the appropriate rehabilitation tactic. “A system of behavior modification was introduced in the Walnut Street Prison, the system of secondary reinforcement so widely used in today's prisons. Each prisoner was given fair pay for his/her labor. The prisoner was debited for the cost of maintenance, and an additional sum was deducted for the prisoner's share of tools. The prisoner was also required to pay the costs of the trial, as well as a fine to the State. If there was a balance against the prisoner at the time of expiration of sentence, the person was retained until it was liquidated.”(Takagi, n.d) Incarceration in the United States is one of the main forms of punishment for the commission of many offenses. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the highest prison population in the world. When researching the American Correctional System there is a lot of information to cover, such as the types of offenders in the system and the different levels of security. How do the United States correctional system compare to Canada’s correctional system? In the American correctional system there are varying levels of security ranging from minimum security to high security prisons. “Prisons are operated on the basis of care, custody, and control. Prisoners are classified by security level or type of crime as well as by custody level and privileges earned by good behavior, but prisons are only classified by security level.  A maximum security prison tends to put the cellblocks near the center of the facility, and the movements of inmates are severely restricted.  3

Medium security prisons still have some restrictions on movement, and frequently require inmates to be at a certain place to stand for count.  Minimum security prisons usually allow inmates to walk around freely.  Maximum security prisons are often the main problem in terms of perpetuating an "institutional" environment with norms and values far different from those that operate in the "free world.” (Alighieri, n.d). Many American prisons of today are designed to be restrictive and control the movements of the prisoners. Security levels are based on such features as the presence of external patrols, towers, security barriers, or detection devices; the type of housing within the institution; internal security features; and the staff-to-inmate ratio. Prison designs have changed over time and there were many since the first prison was opened in 1790. The Pennsylvania system was designed with the administration building in the center and was designed with the idea of solitary confinement. The Auburn system was designed with the administration building on the outer wall and was designed with the idea of silent confinement. In 1950 there was a roundhouse design also referred to as panopticon design. The guard tower is a cylindrical structure going up the middle of the inside. There were only two built in the entire world.(Aligheri, n.d). Another prison design was the reformatory which was a large structure where the cell doors opened inward in to a large hallway. These reformatories were first designed for rehabilitation. In 1990 a modular design or pod prison is a direct supervision type prison and cells have tall ceilings, mezzanine balconies, Plexiglas panels and high technical security measures. 4

Despite the different designs, overcrowding has become a problem in American prisons, which has led to prisons being forced to house large numbers of prisoners. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of June 30, 2008, there were approximately 2,310,984 prisoners that were being held in federal or state prisons. This was an increase of 0.8% in yearend 2007, which is less...
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