State and Federal Prison Systems

State and Federal prisons have one main purpose in common, to house or lock up criminals to help protect society. While there are other similarities between the two systems, there are also noticeable differences. Funding, available facilities, and structure are where there are variances. Majority of state prisons are built and modeled after the Auburn system, Sing-Sing, because of the low cost and number of prisoners it can hold. The idea was to incorporate a doctrine of isolation, work, and atonement. State prisons are for prisoners sentenced to serve more than a year.

While prison population has slowed since 2000, the prior 25 years gained a severe increase in population because of Americans trepidation to violence and other criminal activities. This fear was placated by political campaign to send more people to prison and for longer terms by integrating the “War on Crime,” and the “War on Drugs,” legislations. With over 1 million women and men prisoners, many facilities are considered overcrowded and has led to run-down facilities, a small ratio of security guards supervising a large number of inmates, and less funding for renovation or new construction of prisons.

Federal prisons, also nicknamed “Club Fed”, have had an abundance of funding allowing one-man cells, better meals, access to a variety of programs and entertainment, visitation policies, better guard on prisoner ratio, and cleanliness. Federal prisons house less violent offenders, and most inmates are considered “white-collar” and “political” criminals, although in the last 20 years there has been a change in the type of inmates. “Three of every ten federal inmates are foreigners,” (Foster, 2006, p. 142,) awaiting deportation.

Funding for both systems has become limited and this has caused some state and federal governments to privatize institutionalization by hiring private companies. The standards and procedures are the same, but the funding comes from the private company as they typically earn money by employing prisoners for a variety of work. Privately operated prisons also generate revenue at a state level because “unlike state run prisons, they pay sales and property taxes, both of which act as resources for increased revenue for the state rather than draining state budgets,” (Miller, 2010.

) Both systems are set up with five levels of security for housing prisoners. State prisons are graded as maximum security, close-high-security, medium-security, minimum-security, and open-security facilities. Federal prisons are graded as minimum security, low security, medium security, high security, and administrative security. The differences between the two security levels allow a higher ratio of security guards to inmates for federal prisons for each level. Both systems have similar levels and classification of prisoners housed in each; high and maximum security, medium, and minimum security.

Improving security and other shortfalls of state and federal prisons is a costly endeavor, one that the United States is expected to fund. There are a number of new prisons built with better security, but as the new is built, older ones are left in poor conditions, low-level security, and still expected to be utilized in housing prisoners. The idea of privatization of prison operations appears to be a solution that benefits state and federal prisons in a detrimental area, cost.

Revenue is generated from the state and property taxes paid by the private companies contracted, plus there is an abundant amount of funds equivalent to better and stricter security, cleaner facilities, and additional opportunities to occupy inmates during incarceration which equal less violence, and further liberty to house prisoners. At a time when the United States is promoting local businesses, contracting private companies for prison operations is a win-win.