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A prison (from Old French prisoun), also known as gaol or jail, is a place in which people are physically confined and usually deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime. Other terms used are penitentiary, correctional facility, remand centre, detention centre, and gaol or jail. In some legal systems some of these terms have distinct meanings.
A criminal suspect who has been charged with or is likely to be charged with criminal offense may be held on remand in prison if he or she is denied or unable to meet conditions of bail, or is unable or unwilling to post bail. A criminal defendant may also be held in prison while awaiting trial or a trial verdict. If found guilty, a defendant will be convicted and may receive a custodial sentence requiring imprisonment.
As well as convicted or suspected criminals, prisons may be used for internment of those not charged with a crime. Prisons may also be used as a tool of political repression to detain political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and "enemies of the state", particularly by authoritarian regimes. In times of war or conflict, prisoners of war may also be detained in prisons. A prison system is the organizational arrangement of the provision and operation of prisons.
For most of history, imprisoning has not been a punishment in itself, but rather a way to confine criminals until a punishment (often corporal or capital punishment) was administered. There were prisons used for detention in Jerusalem in Old Testament times, and the Bible details the imprisonment of Joseph in Egypt. Dungeons were used to hold prisoners; those who were not killed or left to die there often became galley slaves or faced penal transportations. In other cases debtors were often thrown into debtor's prisons, until they paid their gaolers enough money in exchange for a limited degree of freedom.
Only in the 19th century, it is big beginning in Britain, did prisons as known today become commonplace, however institutions dating earlier into the 16th century in the Netherlands (Rasphuizen)are the first instances of institutions for the main purpose of confining offenders. The modern prison system was born in London, influenced by the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham. Bentham's panopticon introduced the principle of observation and control that underpins the design of the modern prison. The notion of prisoners being incarcerated as part of their punishment and not simply as a holding state until trial or hanging, was at the time revolutionary. This is when prisons had begun to be used as criminal rehabilitation centers.
Britain practiced penal transportation of convicted criminals to penal colonies in the British Empire, in the Americas from the 1610s through the American Revolution in the 1770s and in Australia between 1788 and 1868. France sent criminals to tropical penal colonies including Louisiana in the early 18th century. Penal colonies in French Guiana operated until 1951 (in particular, infamous Île du Diable (Devil's Island)). Katorga prisons were established in the 17th century in Tsardom of Russia in underpopulated areas of Siberia and the Russian Far East that had few towns or food sources. Since these times, Siberia gained its fearful connotation of punishment.
Design and facilities 
Male and female prisoners are typically kept in separate locations or separate prisons altogether. Prison accommodation, especially modern prisons in the developed world, are often divided into wings. A building holding more than one wing is known as a "hall". Many prisons are divided into two sections, one containing prisoners before trial and the other containing convicted prisoners.
Amongst the facilities that prisons may have are:
- A main entrance, which may be known as the 'sally port' or 'gatelodge' (stemming from old castle nomenclature)
- A religious facility, which will often house chaplaincy offices and facilities for counselling of individuals or groups
- An 'education facility', often including a library, providing adult education or continuing education opportunities
- A gym or an exercise yard, a fenced, usually open-air-area which prisoners may use for recreational and exercise purposes
- A healthcare facility or hospital
- A segregation unit (also called a 'block' or 'isolation cell'), used to separate unruly, dangerous, or vulnerable prisoners from the general population, also sometimes used as punishment (see solitary confinement)
- A section of vulnerable prisoners (VPs), or protective custody (PC) units, used to accommodate prisoners classified as vulnerable, such as sex offenders, former police officers, informants and those that have gotten into debt or trouble with other prisoners
- A section of safe cells, used to keep prisoners under constant visual observation, for example when considered at risk of suicide
- A visiting area, where prisoners may be allowed restricted contact with relatives, friends, lawyers, or other people
- A death row in some prisons, a section for prisoners awaiting execution
- A staff accommodation area, where staff and prison officers live in the prison, typical of historical prisons
- A service/facilities area housing support facilities like kitchens
- Industrial or agricultural plants operated with convict labour
- A recreational area containing items such as a TV and pool table
- An administration area where prison management and operations are located
Prison design 
Prisons are normally surrounded by fencing, walls, earthworks, geographical features, or other barriers to prevent escape. Multiple barriers, concertina wire, electrified fencing, secured and defensible main gates, armed guard towers, lighting, motion sensors, dogs and roving patrols may all also be present depending on the level of security. Remotely controlled doors, CCTV monitoring, alarms, cages, restraints, nonlethal and lethal weapons, riot-control gear and physical segregation of units and prisoners may all also be present within a prison to monitor and control the movement and activity of prisoners within the facility.
Modern prison designs have increasingly sought to restrict and control the movement of prisoners throughout the facility and also to allow a smaller prison staff to monitor prisoners directly; often using a decentralized "podular" layout. (In comparison, 19th-century prisons had large landings and cell blocks which permitted only intermittent observation of prisoners.) Smaller, separate and self-contained housing units known as "pods" or "modules" are designed to hold 16 to 50 prisoners and are arranged around exercise yards or support facilities in a decentralized "campus" pattern. A small number of prison officers, sometimes a single officer, supervise each pod. The pods contain tiers of cells arranged around a central control station or desk from which a single officer can monitor all the cells and the entire pod, control cell doors and communicate with the rest of the prison.
Pods may be designed for high-security "indirect supervision", in which officers in segregated and sealed control booths monitor smaller numbers of prisoners confined to their cells. An alternative is "direct supervision", in which officers work within the pod and directly interact with and supervise prisoners, who may spend the day outside their cells in a central "dayroom" on the floor of the pod. Movement in or out of the pod to and from exercise yards, work assignments or medical appointments can be restricted to individual pods at designated times and is generally centrally controlled. Goods and services, such as meals, laundry, commissary, educational materials, religious services and medical care can increasingly be brought to individual pods or cells as well.
Despite these design innovations, overcrowding at many prisons, particularly in the USA, has resulted in a contrary trend, as many prisons are forced to house large numbers of prisoners, often hundreds at a time, in gymnasiums or other large buildings that have been converted into massive open dormitories. Lower-security prisons are often designed with less restrictive features, confining prisoners at night in smaller locked dormitories or even cottage or cabin-like housing while permitting them freer movement around the grounds to work or activities during the day.
Security levels 
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the English-speaking world and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2013)|
The levels of security within a prison system are categorized differently around the world, but tend to follow a distinct pattern. Most developed countries divide prisons into separate security classes depending on the inmate population and the security needed to keep them under control. Accordingly, most developed countries have classes ranging from the most secure, which typically hold violent prisoners and those judged most likely to escape, to the least, which are most often used to house non-violent offenders or those for whom more stringent security is deemed unnecessary. Below are some different examples of prison classifications from around the world.
England and Wales 
Thus prisons classified as "A" would typically house prisoners categorised as "A" at the time of sentencing, and would be designed with the level of security appropriate for that class. The categories of prisoners in descending order are:
- Category A: those whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or national security.
- Category B: those who do not require maximum security, but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult.
- Category C: those who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape.
- Category D: those who can be reasonably trusted not to try to escape, and are given the privilege of an open prison. Prisoners at 'D Cat' (as it is commonly known) prisons, are, subject to approval, given ROTL (Release On Temporary Licence) to work outside the prison or to go on 'home leave' once they have passed their FLED (Full Licence Eligibility Date), which is usually a quarter of the way through their sentence.
The British prison system is also divided into "Open" and "Closed" prisons. Categories A-C are considered "Closed" prisons as prisoners cannot be trusted to interact with the public, while category D prisons are generally "Open", meaning that prisoners with a good record and who are approved can be allowed limited interaction with the public such as home-leave or a nominal employment.
United States 
In the United States, "jail" and "prison" refer to separate levels of incarceration; generally speaking, jails are county or city administrated institutions which house both inmates awaiting trial on the local level and convicted misdemeanants serving a term of one year or less, while prisons are state or federal facilities housing convicted felons serving a term of more than one year. On the federal level, this terminology has been largely superseded by a more complex five-tier system implemented by the Federal Bureau of Prisons that ranges from low security "Prison Camps" to medium security "Correctional Institutions" and finally maximum security "Penitentiaries". Federal prisons can also house pre-trial inmates.
The exact classification systems differ between county, state, and federal systems. Some common types of prisons include:
- Supermax: As the name implies, the custody level goes beyond Maximum by segregating "the worst of the worst" in a prison system, such as terrorists deemed a threat to national security and inmates from other prisons who have a history of violent or other disruptive behavior in prison or are suspected of gang affiliation. This level is also used for non-terrorists who have been deemed too dangerous or too high-profile to ever be in a normal prison. These inmates have individual cells and are kept in lockdown for 23 hours per day. Meals are served through "chuck holes" in the cell door, and each inmate is alotted one hour of outdoor exercise per day, alone. They are normally permitted no contact with other inmates and are under constant surveillance via closed-circuit television cameras.
- Administrative: Administrative security is a classification of prisons or detention centers that are for a specific purpose, such as housing mentally ill offenders. These range in levels of security from Minimum to Administrative Maximum Security (ADMAX), as in the case of ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado.
- Maximum: A custody level in which both design and construction as well as inmate classification reflect the need to provide maximum external and internal control and supervision of inmates primarily through the use of high security perimeters and extensive use of internal physical barriers and check points. Inmates accorded this status present serious escape risks or pose serious threats to themselves, to other inmates, to staff, or the orderly running of the institution. Supervision of inmates is direct and constant.
- High: The "Middle Ground" for violent crimes, High security institutions have highly-secured perimeters (featuring walls or reinforced fences), multiple- and single-occupant cell housing, the highest staff-to-inmate ratio, and close control of inmate movement.
- Medium: A custody level in which design and construction as well as inmate classification reflect the need to provide secure external and internal control and supervision of inmates. Inmates accorded to this status may present a moderate escape risk or may pose a threat to other inmates, staff, or the orderly running of the institution. Supervision remains constant and direct. Through an inmate's willingness to comply with institutional rules and regulations, increased job and program opportunities exist.
- Close Security: Close Security prisons are institutions which house inmates too dangerous for Low Security, but who did not commit a crime worthy of incarceration in a Medium Security Facility. These prisons are rare, as most inmates fall into either "Medium" or "Low" Security Classifications. These facilities are often located in separate areas of a Low or Medium security Prison.
- Low: A custody level in which both the design and construction as well as inmate classification reflect the goal of returning to the inmate a greater sense of personal responsibility and autonomy while still providing for supervision and monitoring of behavior and activity. Inmates within this security level are not considered a serious risk to the safety of staff, inmates or to the public. Program participation is mandated and geared toward their potential reintegration into the community. Additional access to the community is limited and under constant direct staff supervision.
- Minimum: The lowest level of security to which an inmate can be assigned directly. This type of prison is typically a "prison farm", or other work-oriented facility, and most often houses petty or "white-collar criminals."
- Pre-release. A custody level in which both design and construction as well as inmate classification reflect the goal of restoring to the inmate maximum responsibility and control of their own behavior and actions prior to their release. Direct supervision of these inmates is not required, but intermittent observation may be appropriate under certain conditions. Inmates within this level may be permitted to access the community unescorted to participate in programming, including but not limited to work release or educational release.
Special types of prison 
Prisons for juveniles (people under 17 or 18, depending on the jurisdiction) are known as young offender facilities or similar designation and hold minors who have been remanded into custody or serving sentence. Many countries have their own age of criminal responsibility in which children are deemed legally responsible for their actions for a crime. Countries such as Canada may try to sentence a juvenile as an adult, but have them serve their sentence in a juvenile facility until they reach the age of majority, at which time they would be transferred to an adult facility.
Prisons form part of military systems, and are used variously to house prisoners of war, unlawful combatants, those whose freedom is deemed a national security risk by military or civilian authorities, and members of the military found guilty of a serious crime. Military prisons in the United States have also been converted to civilian prisons, to include Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz was formerly a military prison for soldiers during the American Civil War.
Some psychiatric facilities have characteristics of prisons, particularly when confining patients who have committed a crime and are considered dangerous. In addition, many prisons have psychiatric units dedicated to housing offenders diagnosed with a wide variety of mental disorders. The United States government refers to psychiatric prisons as Federal Medical Centers (FMC).
Population statistics 
As of 2010, it is estimated that at least 10.1 million people are currently imprisoned worldwide. It is probable that this number is much higher, in view of general under-reporting and a lack of data from various countries, especially authoritarian regimes.
The United States currently has the world's largest prison population. In 2007, there were over 2 million people in American prisons or jails, up from 744,000 in 1985. That same year, it was also reported that the United States government spent an estimated $37 billion to maintain these prisons. In 2012, the United States prison population was estimated at over 2.3 million prisoners, meaning 1 in every 100 American adults are in a prison. The cost of these prisons was then estimated at $74 billion per year.
If observers of prisons can agree upon one fact, it is that American prisons are overcrowded at the moment. In the United States, as of 2009, California had 158,000 inmates in prisons that were designed to hold 84,000. The result was that almost 14,000 inmates were sleeping in very tight spaces, or in hallways or on floors. Prisons all over the nation are overcrowded, and people are being incarcerated at an increasing rate, whereas the new prisons cannot be built fast enough.
See also 
|This article may be in need of reorganization to comply with Wikipedia's layout guidelines. (January 2013)|
- Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved on 2009-10-12.
- "Prisons". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Taylor, Alan. American Colonies. Penguin: London(2001).
- International Profile of Women's Prisons (144p), International Centre for Prison Studies, April 2008
- Report of the Surveyor-General of Prisons, London, 1844 reproduced in Mayhew, Criminal Prisons of London, London, 1862
- "BOP Information". Bop.gov. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- Template:Cite web url=http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=upnorth
- Walmsley, Roy (October 2010). "World Prison Population List (Ninth Edition)" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-17.
- "Inside America's $37 billion prison economy". CNNMoney. March 15, 2007.
- Engdahl, Sylvia (2010). Prisons. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press.
- "World Prison Populations". BBC News.
- "Mental Illness in Prison: Inmate Rehabilitation & Correctional Officers in Crisis by SpearIt :: SSRN". Papers.ssrn.com. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
Further reading 
- Carlson, Peter M.; Garrett, Judith Simon, Prison and Jail Administration: Practice and Theory, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1999.
- Diiulio, John J., Governing Prisons: A Comparative Study of Correctional Management, Simon and Schuster, 1990. ISBN 0-02-907883-0.
- Harnsberger, R. Scott. A Guide to Sources of Texas Criminal Justice Statistics [North Texas Crime and Criminal Justice Series, no.6]. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-57441-308-3
- James (Jim) Bruton, Big House: Life Inside a Supermax Security Prison, Voyageur Press (July 2004), hardcover, 192 pages, ISBN 0-89658-039-3.
- Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York: Random House 1975.
- Norman Bruce Johnston Collection of Prison Architectural Plans, 19th-20th century (collection description), Lloyd Sealy Library Special Collections, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (view upon appointment)
- Ted Conover. Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing. Knopf, 2001. Trade paperback, 352 pages, ISBN 0-375-72662-4.
|Look up prison, jail, gaol, or penitentiary in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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- Interactive world map showing number of prisoners per 100,000 citizens
- Australian Prisons
- Russian Prisons photostory
- Historic Prisons
- Victorian Prisoners' Photograph Albums from Wandsworth prison on The National Archives' website.
- World Prison Population List (fourth edition) UK Home Office, 2003. ISSN 1473-8406.
- User Views of Punishment: The comparative experience of short term prison sentences and community-based punishments Research Report by The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research
- Incarceration Reform Mega-Site (with 387 links)