The U.S. Department of Corrections is reeling with a multitude of issues that are caused by the overflowing prison population. A little over ten percent of the nation’s population languishes in prisons across the nation. Despite harsher laws being passed often, career criminals keep pushing their luck and eventually end up right where they started. It is advocated that the core issue for recidivism is lack of education, drug abuse and poverty. However, there have been examples of people who gave up crime and were successful. The common characteristics in these extraordinary former inmates is that they chose to motivate themselves and discovered a hidden talent or quality that allowed them to scale great heights. The objective of the earliest prison system was to correct the criminal behavior and allow the individual an opportunity to make a new beginning. However, the punishments have been unusually deficient and have forced inmates to spend ten or fifteen years in prison for petty crimes such as shoplifting.
Important issues in correctional facilities
Criminologists have theorized that a repeat offender is unlikely to reform in prison. However the concept of communal sentencing has its own drawbacks with nosy parole officers disturbing families as early as five in the morning. The rehabilitation has to be provisioned in a secure facility and yet it has to emit a positive atmosphere. The first task is to analyze the problems that sting the present system beyond the scope of reformation.
Prison facilities are overflowing with prisoners and fights break out commonly over limited spaces. The overcrowding of prison has been the result of minimum mandatory sentences along with long sentences that were imposed for drugs and firearm charges. This creates a permanent resident population in the prison and space shrinks away as more inmates are incarcerated in these facilities.
Repeat offenders keep coming back to spend longer sentences on account of three-strike laws or minimum mandatory sentences. The other problem that causes recidivism is when young inmates exchange notes with the experienced criminals whom they meet during incarceration. Once released, the young inmates try out the new techniques that they had learn from their criminal peers. Hence the chance to prevent recidivism even for first time offenders is slowly eroding away.
The Department of Corrections is unable to handle the bills generated by the elderly prisoners’ especially medical bills. It is difficult to keep them in the general population and even more difficult to handle once they reach a certain age.
The extent of drug abuse cannot even be measured in the correctional facilities today. Moreover, many states do not have rehabilitation centers either. Hence, the inmate when released will be in the same state or worse than when the person was initially arrested. These individuals can potentially harm the society in a variety of ways.
Young adults and teenagers who are tried as adults are most likely to be sexually assaulted in prison. Sexual abuse not only destroys the morale of the inmate, it can cause serious mental conditions. As a matter of fact, a common trait in serial killers is prolonged sexual abuse in their childhood or teenage.
Second generation criminals
Studies have indicated that offspring of career criminals and children who grow up without a father’s presence are sixty percent more likely to lead a life of crime. While, there could be multiple reasons why a single parent raises a child, there is no real option for a child raised by career criminals. They follow in the footsteps of their parents and end up in jails also. Rehabilitation for these offspring is almost impossible in the present system.
The prison problems will directly affect the morale and mental faculties of correctional officers. The chance of violence against them increases significantly when the prison population exceeds its holding capacity. The pay is relatively low and possibilities for growth hampered by budget cuts, the stress is never gone (Klugiewicz, 2010).
Staff training deficiency
Attrition among correctional officers is extremely high. Hence, even when a new recruit joins the prison, without the guidance from senior correctional officers, it becomes extremely difficult to cope up with stress. This in turn will result in additional attrition
Correctional Facility of Tomorrow – Rehabilitation and Learning Center
Correctional facilities will never be able to achieve positive rehabilitation if the inmates do not want to start again with their lives. If the prisoner population is to learn how to respect property, people, and to earn money the legitimate way, they are going to need practice. Even in a situation where a prisoner learns to be a plumber in prison, unless he had worked at an actual location mending pipes, he will neither have the confidence or the morale to make it on the outside. Moreover, the prison facility does not operate like a neighborhood in society. There is not much to learn about living a legitimate life. The goal of the Rehabilitation and Learning Center is to change that completely. The size of this prison is almost the same as a small town. It has different sections in the neighborhood for inmates to commune as a society. Furthermore, the goal of the facility is to rehabilitate and unless that becomes a reality, the prisoner’s stay will be extended.
Objectives of the facility
Creating an atmosphere for learning new skills through a variety of professional and vocational courses. Educating inmates on the concept of earning to make a living. Engaging inmates to discover their hidden talents through counseling and recreational activities. Increasing the family’s involvement in the rehabilitation of the inmates. Infuse the habit of using earnings to support their families. Return the inmates to the society as respectable and law-abiding citizens.
The prison facility is divided into four sectors. Each sector houses a particular set of offenders and facilities. The facilities will differ with the extensity of the criminals lodged in that particular sector. The prison will be maintained by prisoners for up to eighty percent of the space. Only sectors three and four will constitute a larger presence of professional correctional officials. The different sectors also help segregate the different types of offenders and prevent them from picking up undesirable habits or knowledge from career criminals housed in the facility. The prison compound is surrounded by a fourteen-foot wall with watch towers every half a mile. The walls also support bright solar based lights that are sufficient to light up a stadium.
The prisoners are processed uniquely as they arrive in the complex to serve out their sentences. The first thing that new prisoners have to do is to assemble according to their categories. Next, they will be provided with a booklet that contains the rules of the prison, a detailed map, daily schedules, and a few intercom extension numbers. Then they are taken to the employment exchange which will allocate jobs for the inmates. The inmates will have to earn money and good behavior credits to avail the extensive facilities in this complex. The money earned will accumulate on smartcards that have to be authenticated by thumbprint at all outlets. Those who do not wish to work for their necessities will be provided standard prison amenities free of charge. If inmates do not qualify for certain vacant position and show interest in them will be provided training that would be either conducted at the school or the study center. They will then be transported to their designated dormitories by bus or patrol cars depending on the number.
The prison complex consists of two hospitals, staff quarters, staff academy, visitors’ area, an employment exchange, two restaurants, a shopping center, a family accommodation complex, a religious center, two counseling centers, a fire department, three outdoor sporting areas, a school, a study center, an auditorium, five parks, a helipad for medical lift offs, four indoor recreational centers, and a workshop. The study center and school house their own libraries, study halls, music halls and vocational areas. The entire prison complex has access to Wi-Fi internet. The power requirement for this facility is generated in two massive compounds; one for solar energy and the other with wind energy. The surplus power is diverted to nearby towns. The power facility compounds are maintained by present and former inmates.
The massive compound has a unique taxi service that is operated by inmates. This service is extended up to sector three. Sector is a high security zone and has limited access to the other areas in the prison. The Counseling center for sectors one and two are run by former inmates who visit the prison complex twice a week. On other days, the center is utilized as a vocational training center. Sector two houses a school where inmates can earn high school diplomas or even community college degrees free of cost. The prison complex has three ambulances and a helicopter stationed always. All the drivers and pilots involved are former inmates. The cost of running this prison is significantly low compared to some of the state prisons in the country since it is maintained by its infamous inhabitants.
Prison Facilities and their uses
The prison is a comfortable and resourceful place to spend a sentence however; there are certain restrictions in place. It might be glided but it is a prison that houses criminals. The accommodation of the inmates in divided into seven categories. They are nonviolent, first-time offenders, juvenile offenders (tried as adults), and elderly. In addition, sectors three and four house violent offenders – Levels 1, 2 and 3. The prison population are allowed to spend the money that they earn during incarceration at the restaurants and shopping center. This is a unique feature aimed at normalizing an inmate’s way of life. When they leave the prison, the transition will be between two neighborhoods and not two realities.
These are offenders who have been incarcerated for white collar crimes or for repeating minor offences that were devoid of violence. They are housed in an air-conditioned dormitory that has a gymnasium and a cafeteria. The inmates housed here are allowed the opportunity to utilize all the facilities in the prison complex barring certain areas in sector three and the whole of sector four. They would have no access to any violent criminal housed in the prison complex.
Violent Criminals – Level 1
Inmates who are categorized under this label were involved in assault and battery, assault with a weapon and causing injury. Felons who are charged with property damage such as arson are also housed under this category.
Violent Criminals – Level 2
The inmates in Level 2 of violent criminals are those who had been charged with sexual assault, armed robbery, firearms discharge, manslaughter, murder in the second degree and felony murder. These inmates will have limited contact with Level 1 inmates however, no contact with anyone else.
Common Yard – Level 1
This is a common yard that houses a baseball area, basketball court and a volleyball court. It is situated next to a park adjoining Indoor Recreational Center 2. The inmates in Levels 2 and 3 will make use of these facilities and not the outdoor sporting area in Sector 2.
Violent Criminals – Level 3
These inmates are incarcerated for murder in the first-degree, serial killing, mass killing, spree killing, serial rapists, child murderers and bombers. They have limited access to prison facilities and the visitor lounge. However, they will remain isolated from the rest of the population. This category of criminals are usually serving life sentences (without parole) or waiting on death row.
Common Yard – Level 2
This common yard has the same facilities as common yard 1 and serves the inhabitants of Level 3 housing only. It is an exclusive facility.
Inmates who had grown old or had been incarcerated after the age of 65 belong to this category. They are housed between Sectors 3 and 4. Their accommodation compound is adjacent to the Wing 2 hospital. These inmates are cared for by experienced professionals and select inmates of Levels 1 and 2.
The first-time offenders probably have the best chance to rehabilitate themselves. Hence, they are segregated from the violent offenders. They occasionally share facilities with nonviolent offenders. However, these interactions are brief and usually during festivities or movie screenings. Their accommodation is situated in sector 1 along with the nonviolent and juvenile offenders.
Juvenile offenders (Tried as adults)
The United States Justice department allows juveniles to be tried as adults for certain crimes. However, they will be sexually assaulted almost certainly within a week of incarceration. Hence, this prisoner population will be kept in complete isolation from the rest of the prisoners. They will only share the outdoor sporting area situated in Sector 2 and even then will not take the field on days when other inmates are present. They will be housed in an apartment complex that contains individual living spaces with a living room, bathroom, a small kitchen and bedroom. This category of prisoners is the most vulnerable population on campus hence, their activities are restricted to Sector 2. They will have a day scheduled in the week to visit the shopping center however, it will be supervised. Their recreation center is situated in the basement of their housing complex and with a similar set of activities. They also have a restaurant in Sector 2 entirely to themselves and occasionally sharing them with the residents of the Family Accommodation Center.
Indoor Recreational Centers
There are four Indoor Recreational Centers for the four sectors. These centers have foosball tables, pool tables, Ping-Pong, 1 television set, 12 computer terminals connected to the internet through Wi-Fi and a few vending machines. The Juvenile Indoor Recreational Center is housed in the basement of their housing complex.
The Workshop is situated at the start of Sector 3. This facility is accessible to all prison populations barring the juveniles. They utilize this facility on appointed days only. The workshop houses vocational courses such as plumbing, carpentry, automotive mechanics, blacksmithing, welding, and hairstyling. The instructors are professionals who visit the prison twice a week and most of them do this voluntarily.
The prison houses a fire department with three engines. These engines are operated by the prison population of Sectors 2 and 3. They operate on a shift sharing basis. The fire crew is paid on the basis of fighting fires as well as conducting fire safety drills for the prison population.
Hospital Wing 1
This hospital wing operates out of Sector 1 with close proximity to the helipad. This hospital caters to the needs of the inhabitants of Sectors 1 and 2 only. It has two ambulances on station at all times. It is equipped to handle minor injuries and ailments.
Hospital Wing 2
This hospital is a secure facility that serves the populations of Sectors 3 and 4 in addition to the Elderly prisoners. This facility does not have a helipad or option of a helicopter liftoff. The only option would be to transport the patient from the hospital to the helipad in Sector 1. The hospital staff are a combination of former inmates and professionals. This hospital wing is equipped to handle anything short of a major surgery. It also has specialists for cardiovascular, orthopedic and neurology departments.
The Family Accommodation Center is a perk that can either be purchased for a certain price or earn the qualification through a certain number of good credits. The price and credits differ for each section of the prison population. This facility allows an inmate’s family to join him for an entire month. During this time, the inmate can move in with his family at the Center. The family however, will be restricted to Sector 1 where the Center is located. The rare chance to join up with family even for a brief period is an enormous motivator for inmates to earn their credits. This facility has room-service option and can accommodate only one family at a time. This facility is open to all categories of prisoners barring Level 3.
The Visitors Area is located in Sector 1 and consists of a restaurant run by inmates from Sector 2. It is adjacent to a park where families of select inmates can interact with them. They can also offer prayers at the Religious Center together.
The Study Center is located at Sector 3. It serves as the learning and rehabilitation center for the inmates of Sectors 3 and 4. It consists of a Music Hall where inmates can learn to play instruments and learn to dance. The Vocations Hall provides computer training for inmates and the Library provides access to thousands of books. The Study Center is also utilized for conducting high school and degree course tuitions (Rose, 2006).
The School is situated in Sector 2 adjacent to the Juvenile housing compound. It consists of a Study hall and Library. This facility is similarly structured as the Study Center in Sector 3. It provides the same set of courses to the prison populations of Sector 2.
The Religious Center is situated in Sector 2. It is utilized by visiting families and the prison population of all Sectors. Visits by inmates of Sectors 3 and 4 are always supervised. The Center has visiting religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Buddhist and Jewish faiths.
Counseling centers are utilized partly as a training center for vocational courses. The visiting counselors counsel the inmates for substance abuse and emotional disorders. The majority of visiting counselors are former criminals who have now reformed.
The Shopping Center arrays a wide range of products including food items, apparel, fruits, vegetables, footwear, candy, chewing gum, nicotine patches, over the counter medication, sporting goods, books and a limited selection of proteins (TakePart, 2015).
The Auditorium is situated in Sector 2 adjacent to the Fire Department. It is utilized for assemblies once a week for all inmates, festivals, special family programs, cultural programs by inmates and for screening movies on a fortnightly basis.
Outdoor Sports Area
The Outdoor Sports Area is situated in Sector 2. It has facilities for inmates to play Baseball, Football, Tennis, and Volleyball. This area is restricted to the inmates of Sector 2 only.
The Food Court is situated in Sector 3. It is a fancy eatery that serves gourmet dishes at subsidized pricing. It also has a limited number of nonalcoholic beverages. This facility is used by inmates of Sector 2 barring the Juveniles who have their own restaurant. The food is door delivered to inmates of Sectors 3 and 4 during the day.
The prison taxi service is operated by inmates of Sectors 2 and select inmates of Sector 3. They operate up to the Workshop and Study Center. Elderly inmates can utilize the taxi service to access the hospital situated in Sector 4.
Any staff including voluntary employees are eligible to reside at the Staff Quarters with their families. These quarters consist of fully furnished apartments complete with an entertainment set. The complex, like the rest of the prison is fully air-conditioned. Most often, correctional officers and their families take residence here. The Staff Quarters is situated outside the actual prison complex and adjacent to the administrative building.
The Staff Academy trains new hire correctional officers on this campus and for campuses across the nation. It serves as a hands-on-job institute with several retired veteran correctional officers to conduct the training. Former inmates who choose to serve in the prison complex are also trained in this Academy.
The employment exchange is situated in Sector 1. It serves as a normal employment exchange for job opportunities inside and outside the prison. Outside jobs are supervised if the inmate is still serving a sentence. After the completion of their sentence, inmates can use this employment exchange to take up jobs in the outside world based on the education and work experience gained during incarceration. If an inmate fails to qualify for a job on the outside for want of skill set, the sentence is increased and the inmate is mandated to acquire a set of skills to find suitable employment up on release. No inmate will be released if they had not acquired skills and neglected to take up higher education (minimum requirement is a high school diploma).
The Administrative building is the face of the prison to the outside world. It houses a command center, parole office, staff rooms and lockers for correctional officers along with a few conference rooms. The armory is also situated in this building. The Warden operates from the Administrative building.
The Rehabilitation and Learning Center is a unique correctional facility however, it is still a prison that houses dangerous criminals. Hence the security of the campus is technology based to allow maximum surveillance. This is achieved by a set of innovative approaches and a fourteen foot wall that surrounds the prison. The prison complex is an all-seeing fortress.
The prison complex sports hundreds of CCTV Cameras that cover almost every square inch of the prison. The only exemptions are some rooms in the Family Accommodation and shower areas. There are no blind spots and security drills are conducted on a fortnightly basis to test weaknesses in the system.
All inmates have to wear anklets that gives away a signal to the command center on the precise location of each individual. The moment a prisoner enters an area that he is not cleared for, a signal alerts the nearest patrol officers. Intentional violations will cost the inmate behavior credits which are the key to family related activities.
There are fourteen checkpoints across the prison campus. These checkpoints are always active and have a minimum of five officers. The strength of personnel differs for different guards. The guards are shuffled every three days through other duties. All checkpoints have a patrol vehicle assigned to it.
Correctional guards conduct roll calls and conduct room inspections periodically. They also maintain the discipline in the campus using nonlethal procedures. Only the tower guards are allowed to carry firearms.
There are fourteen patrol vehicles with two guards assigned for every vehicle. These vehicles patrol the campus during curfew and at night. They also provide security for the movement of Sector 3 and 4 inmates at all times.
Inmates are usually transported by bus for group activities and individuals by taxi or patrol cars depending on the situation. Any movement of Sector 3 and 4 inmates is always escorted by patrol vehicles. All the vehicles in the prison complex have GPS devices and are tracked constantly. In addition, the only gas powered vehicles are the buses and patrol cars which are operated by Correctional Officers. The taxis are battery operated and have to be charged during the nights.
Prison Estate Layout
Klugiewicz, Gary T. (2010). Top 10 correctional issues for 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.correctionsone.com/corrections/articles/3115850-Top-10-correctional-issues-for-2011/
Rose, Lacey (2006). Best Places to Go To Prison. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/2006/04/17/best-prisons-federal_cx_lr_06slate_0418bestprisons.html
TakePart Staff (2015). 10 of the World’s most luxurious prisons. Retrieved from: http://www.takepart.com/photos/worlds-most-luxurious-prisons/sollentuna-prison-sweden