The U.S. Correctional System

The Origins and the Development of the US Correctional System

The Correctional System in America started in New York during the 19th century (Rothman, 1971). The pioneers of this system were men of lofty rationale, who envisaged of prisons as more than plain storehouses of condemned criminals. Rectification was their aim, and, as cogent men, they established a conception of incarceration which was unfailing with their values regarding the origins of crime in the society during those times (Rothman, 1971). The penitentiaries which these reformers put up approximately 150 years before to lay their conjectures into practice endure physically during the state and theoretically in utmost precautions prisons like Attica (Croft, 1972).

In the early 19th century, on the other hand, two extremely distinct ideas of imprisonment were commenced in New York and Pennsylvania, together with what the compositions should appear like and how they should be managed. These ideas ended in the building of whole society anticipated not only to accommodate convicted criminals, but also to change them into moderate, productive, and diligent citizens.

In 1819, when the Auburn Prison was finally constructed, America had the representation and archetype of its “maximum-security prison” (Croft, 1972). The New York government was as loyal as those in Pennsylvania to the proposal of keeping inmates secluded from each other and from the external environment. They were not even permitted to be in touch with their relatives, with the exception of via the prison chaplain. The New York government was profoundly dedicated to the outlook that a stable, expected, implacable habit of hard work, modest banquet, hushed evenings, and soothing nighttime in individual unit would make man who were rehabilitated from their past shortcomings (Croft, 1972). For economic grounds, most American correctional systems were based from the Auburn Prison and were as soundless plants and spontaneous work pools as they were austere prisons. In effect, Auburn Prison gained a profit in the premature years of its subsistence (Croft, 1972).

Regulation was considered as the chief idea for the accomplishment of the assembled prison, and one law almost immediately materialized as the key to it. That law was stillness, stillness so deep and so insidious that it became the most overwhelming and arresting characteristic of the citadel-like correctional systems of America. To facilitate the maintenance of silence and array in the progress of outsized numbers of prisoners on the penitentiary, Auburn worked out the silent, security device-step scuffle (Croft, 1972).

Different Levels and Types of Correctional Institutions in the US

            Inmates are being housed in various facilities that differ with security levels particularly in terms of security procedures, management of inmates, nature of housing, and armaments and strategies employed by the correctional officers. The Bureau of Prisons utilizes a numerical scale to correspond to the level of security (Bosworth, 2002). The most safe level is six (levels from one to six), whereas one is the least. The correctional systems in whole America work the same way. For example, in California, there are four levels of security:

The Supermax prisons give the maximum level of security. These prisons house the most perilous inmates. Among the high-status inmates who are held at supermax prisons are Terry Nichols, Theodore Kaczynski, and Zacarias Moussaoui. Furthermore, the US Federal Bureau of Prisons has such facility which is known as the ADX Florence which was built during 1994 (Bosworth, 2002). The US Penitentiary Marion was also a supermax prison facility before it was lowered to medium security facility.

On the other hand, Maximum Security prison is structured as having individual cells for each inmate. Inmates are then restricted in these cells for 23 hours a day. There is an exterior cage in which prisoner cannot go beyond it. This cage is being guarded by correctional officers.

The other one is called Closed Security prison. It is a type of prison facility which is being managed from a secluded control post. Every cell has sink and lavatory. Inmates are permitted to go outside their cells to function in particular correctional programs. There is an exercise yard in which they can do those activities. The enclosures are described to be structured with double fences with overlook towers and have electric fence in the core.

The last level is the Medium and Minimum Security.  This prison facility does not really employ strict security. Prisoners are held in dormitories and allowed to put their belongings in lockers. There are showers, toilets, and sinks that can be used in common by the inmates. Less regulation over the in-house activities of the inmates is being implemented. The enclosures are normally double-fenced and frequently rounded by correctional officers.

Current Trends in US Correctional Policy

            According to the studies done by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the US has started to implement new policies so as to address the pressing crisis in the correctional system. There are figures that show the decline of prison population in US major states like New York. However, there is also a figure that shows a no growth on prison population particularly in California and New Hampshire. Such is not a good indicator according to the study. If there is a decline in the prison population suppositions are there is a loose implementation of the law or there is an inadequacy in the correctional facilities such that prison population is decreased due to maltreatment and insufficiencies. But according to the study, the reason is much on the latter supposition. The Justice system needs enough funds to finance the renovation and improvement of the correctional system in US.  Thus the most recent correctional policies are directed towards the expansion of funds, and realization of new financial sources that would help and support the prison systems in US such that it can maintain its facilities and attend to the inmates basic needs like food, clothes, medicines, etc (Greene, 2001).


Bosworth, M. F. (2002). The U.S. Federal Prison System (First ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

Croft, E. B. (1972). New York State Prisons and Prison Riots from Auburn and Clinton: 1929 to Attica. School of Criminal Justice.

Greene, J. (2001). Cutting Correctly: New Prison Policies for Times of Fiscal Crisis. Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice , 35.

Rothman, D. (1971). The Discovery of the Asylum. Little Brown.