Prison Systems Have Long Been a Topic Term Paper

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Prison systems have long been a topic of debate within the realm of criminal justice. There are many opinions concerning the proper implementation and management of prison systems (King & McDermott 1995; Prison Inmates Pay for Their Upkeep 2004). The purpose of this discussion is to examine prison systems and the impact of prison systems on inmates' adjustment and behavior.


A central point of any prison system is the level of institutionalization. According to Boin & Reinner (2001) the level of institutionalization is determined by the amount of administrative cohesion. Cohesion is defined as the strength of the relationship between single aspects of the system and the system as a whole. For instance a prison system that is highly institutionalized has a strong relationship between the individual prison organizations and the entire prison system (Boin & Reinner 2001). This means that the prison system behaves as a single large organization where employees share similar thoughts and behave in concert with the organization. On the other hand a prison system in which there is a low level of institutionalization the organization operates in a more autonomous manner.

The authors assert that there are three aspects that characterize cohesion including principles, practices and spirit de corps. Principles refers to the like-mindedness of employees that work within any given prison system (Boin & Reinner 2001). This aspect of cohesion reveals the extent to which field administrators and policy makers have a reciprocal understanding and appreciation of policy goals and implementation strategies. The practices aspect of cohesion refers to concentrating on the variety of practices taking place in a prison. The authors explain that

"Such variety is perfectly normal in prison systems that adhere to the principle of correctional differentiation (to my knowledge, most Western systems do). In these systems, inmates are categorized according to such criteria as sex, age, status, and behavioral characteristics. Prisons for women operate differently from institutions for male offenders; remand centers are different from prisons that house long-term inmates; juvenile offenders are separated from adult prisoners. Moreover, differences are bound to occur as a result of situational circumstances (for instance, prisons have different designs, locations, and climates) (Boin & Reinner 2001; pg 50)."

The authors explain further that variety is measured y examining prison regimes (Boin & Reinner 2001). A regime is defined as the body of rules which is established as a model for behavior in a prison that a prisoner must respond to. Therefore a prison regime illustrates the ways in which the goals of imprisonment are actually implemented or practiced (Boin & Reinner 2001). The three main features of regime character are punishment practices, organizational structure and management styles (Boin & Reinner 2001).

Prison System in the United States

In the United States the Federal Bureau of Prisons governs the management of corrections facilities throughout the country. According to the authors the prison system in the United States is highly institutionalized. As we mentioned previously in the discussion a highly institutionalized system is one in which there is cohesion and like-mindedness throughout the system. (Boin & Rienner, 2001 assert that

"The federal prison facilities are found scattered across the United States, often far away from the public eye. The distance between correctional officers, wardens, and policymakers in Washington, D.C., is bridged by a shared set of assumptions and aims and a view of how prisons should be run and for what reasons. Most employees are proud to be part of this public institution (Boin & Rienner, 2001-page 49)."

A hallmark and rather controversial issue in the American Prison System involves the disproportionate amount of African-Americans and Latinos in prison (James 2004; Gilmore 2000). Gilmore (2000) asserts that via the prison system, the remnants of slavery have continued.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, there are several types of prisons that exist within the system (Prison Types & General Information 2005). These prisons are designated by there security levels: administrative, high, medium, low, and minimum (Prison Types & General Information 2005).

The administrative facilities have unique purposes which include the detention of pretrial offenders, treating inmates with serious medical conditions and the containment of extremely dangerous, violent, or inmates that may attempt to escape (Prison Types & General Information 2005). The bureau reports that administrative facilities consists of Federal Detention Centers (FDCs), the Administrative-Maximum (ADX) U.S. Penitentiary, Metropolitan Correctional Centers (MCCs), Metropolitan Detention Centers (MDCs), Federal Medical Centers (FMCs), Federal Transfer Center (FTC), and the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (MCFP) (Prison Types & General Information 2005). The bureau also reports that administrative facilities can handle inmates from every security level (Prison Types & General Information 2005).

High security facilities are usually referred to as penitentiaries (Prison Types & General Information 2005). These facilities have multiple and single occupant cells, extremely secure perimeters such as walls and fences. In addition the high security facilities closely management inmate movement and also have the highest staff to inmate ratios (Prison Types & General Information 2005).

The medium security facilities also have reinforced perimeters, and cell-type housing of inmates (Prison Types & General Information 2005),. In addition these facilities usually have many work and treatment programs (Prison Types & General Information 2005). The facilities have a higher staff to inmate ratio than do low security prisoners and strong internal controls (Prison Types & General Information 2005).

The Low security facilities usually contain double-fenced perimeters with dormitory or cubicle housing (Prison Types & General Information 2005). In addition, there are usually strong work and rehabilitation programs (Prison Types & General Information 2005). The staff-to-inmate ratio in these institutions is higher than in minimum security facilities (Prison Types & General Information 2005).

Within the minimum security prisons which are called Federal prison camps, there is low staff to inmate ratios and dormitory style housing (Prison Types & General Information 2005). There is also a limited perimeter with little or insignificant fencing (Prison Types & General Information 2005). Such facilities are generally work and program oriented. A majority of minimum security facilities are adjacent to larger corrections facilities or on military bases and the inmates help serve the labor needs of the larger corrections facility or military base (Prison Types & General Information 2005). The classification of prison systems is important not only for security reasons but for the purposes of proper resource allocation (Brown 2000).

Dutch Prison System

For the purposes of this discussion it seemed that the examination of the prison system used in the Netherlands would provide a good comparison to the prison system used in the United States. According to Boin & Reiner (2000) the prison system in the Netherlands is the opposite of the American prison system. This antithesis exists because the system varies greatly from location to location and there is little cohesiveness as it relates to the mission of the prison system. The authors also report that "from a system perspective, these local institutions are perceived as fiefdoms that weaken, or at least decrease, the institutional character of the Dutch prison system (Boin & Rienner, 2001-page 49)."

Aronowitz (n.d.) asserts that the prison system in the Netherlands is governed by several federal acts which also govern the police and the bar association. In addition the Dutch Criminal Code or Penal Code contains some aspects of the English French and German prison system (Aronowitz n.d.). The code emphasizes imprisonment as the main punishment for serious, intentional criminal offenses. However less serious crimes were given sentences of detention (Aronowitz n.d.). The system also permitted fines but they were kept low. The author explain that although there was an emphasis placed on incarceration, sentences remained short and the Netherlands penal system was, and still is, characterized as a relatively lenient system (Tak, 1993: 5;.van Kalmthout, 1992: 663; Aronowitz n.d.).

Those that desire to work in the Dutch Prison system have to be between 24 to 48 years old (Aronowitz n.d.). Applicants must have competed high school. In addition they have to pass a preselection process which features two intelligence tests and a personality test (Aronowitz n.d.). The applicants who pass these tests are also given other psychological tests to establish their aptness for the position (Aronowitz n.d.).

Ferwerda & Ploeg (1992) assert that one of the main differences that can be seen in the Dutch prison system is the level of security. The authors explains that although Dutch prisons are not poorly guarded they are secured in a less dramatic manner than American prisons (Ferwerda & Ploeg 1992). For instance, most Dutch prisons do not have barbed wire or fences surrounding the perimeter nor do they have 24-hour patrols (Ferwerda & Ploeg 1992). The authors report that the differences in levels of security have to do with the location of most prisons in the country (Ferwerda & Ploeg 1992). For instance within the Netherlands most of the facilities can be found in the center of towns and are not surrounded by a great deal of land. For this reason security measure are taken within the prisons (Ferwerda…

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