Correctional facilities such as jails and prisons are a major corner stone of the American criminal justice system. They are used for both punishment of a crime and/or for rehabilitation for drug offenders and other career criminals. Nearly “738 per 100,000 people are incarcerated every year.”1 This paper will discuss the environment of a major correctional facility in Florida through the eyes of a virtual tour, courtesy of the Florida Department of Corrections.
The opening prison images presented are much like the information presented in the text Criminal Justice in Action: The Core,2 the prison grounds are laid out in the “campus style” setting. Florida Correctional Facilities are broken down into two sections: actual prison/jail facilities and facilities designed for parole and probation. According to the Florida Department of Corrections the prison facilities are split up into many different subsections called “major institutions, annexes, work camps, work release centers, and road prisons throughout the state…”3 Inmates of these Florida facilities are placed in the various subsections based on their need or degree of crime committed and past and present conduct. Furthermore, “… major institutions incarcerate eighty-four percent of the states prison inmates.”4 The basic “prison compound” in a “major institution” consists of a few large two floor housing buildings also knows as “Cell Housing Units” as well as housing known as “Open Dorm Housing” and various other buildings that litter the compound for use by either prison employee’s or care of prison inmates.5
The cell housing units are the two story units within the prison facility used to house inmates incarcerated in the prison. Each cell housing unit is structured with both “one and two man holding cells.”6 Each cell housing unit are built in the shape of large, rectangular buildings. Inside are long, wide empty hallways, with the exception of the occasional plastic picnic bench. Each individual cell, also known as, a “Secure Cell” is furnished with a set of metal bunk beds bolted to the walls, two small plain metal lockers placed on the floor for the inmates belongings, a small raised window and a metal toilet (minus seat cover) near the cell entrance. Each cell is sealed with a large blue steal door with an outside bolting lock. The approximate size of each of the “Secure Cells” vary from about “seven feet wide to ten feet eight inches or fourteen feet long.”7 While viewing the strict confined quarters of a secure prison cell, it became easy to understand why the process of “prisonization” occurs in American correctional facilities. According to Gaines and Miller, “Inmates develop their own economy which in the absence of currency, is based on the barter of valued items such as food, contraband, and sexual
favors. They establish methods of determining power, many of which… involve violence.”8
In addition to the cell housing units, there are also buildings in the prison compound called “Open Dorm Housing”. These units, unlike the cell housing units are for “inmates who require less supervision and function well in an open environment.”9 Open dorm housing looks surprisingly familiar to military barracks. They consist of a very large rectangular room filled with single size metal framed beds and a large hallway leading to another large room for bathing and using the toilets. Unlike a secure cell, the whole space in an open dorm is free space and consists of no enclosed space. Furthermore, out of the many types of correctional facilities established (i.e. work camps, work release centers) “Correctional institutions are (the) prisons with fences, razor wire or ribbon, electronic detection systems, perimeter towers with armed correctional officers and/or officers in roving perimeter vehicles.”10 According to Florida’s Department of Corrections “Most Florida prisons have open dorm housing.”11
However, although Florida is quick to point out that prison is not just a walk in the park by offering answers to several current “misconceptions” about prison life, such as the use of air conditioning and cable television and by providing facts about correctional facilities inmate workforce, the Florida Department of Correction fails to bring to light the overwhelming problems plaguing today’s prison system. Problems such as prison over-crowding and occasional prison violence are among the few that have been brought to light in recent years through local news broadcasts and papers. Nevertheless, the website for the Florida Department of Corrections does agree with the facts presented in the text Criminal Justice in Action: The Core,12 about the current rise in prison population on a yearly basis; siting that Florida’s prison population rose 3.6% since the 2004-2005 “fiscal year,” and stating the over a 10 year time period the prison population grew approximately 37%.13 On a positive note however, these correctional facilities do appear to provide the much needed punishment and/or rehabilitation for prison inmates serving time within the Florida system.
(1)The Sentencing Project
(2), (8), (12) Gaines, Larry K, and Roger LeRoy Miller. Criminal Justice in Action: The Core. 3rd Edition.
Belmont: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2006.
(3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (9), (10), (11), (13) “Virtual Prison Tours.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 29 Nov. 2006.
1. Gaines, Larry K, and Roger LeRoy Miller. Criminal Justice in Action: The Core. 3rd Edition.
Belmont: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2006.
2. “Virtual Prison Tours.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 29 Nov. 2006. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/vtour/index.html>.
. “Correctional Facilities/Introduction.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 23 Nov. 2006. .4″>http://www.dc.state.fl.us/facilities/index.html>.
. “Cell Housing.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 23 Nov. 2006. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/vtour/shousing.html>.
5. “Secure Cell.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 24 Nov. 2006.
6. “Open Dorm.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 24 Nov. 2006.
7. “Compound.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 28 Nov. 2006.
8. “Inmate Population.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 28 Nov. 2006.
. “Facilities on June 30, 2005.” Florida Department of Corrections. Date Accessed 28 Nov. 2006. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/annual/0405/facil.html>.
10. “New Incarceration Figures.” The Sentencing Project. Date Accessed 29 Nov. 2006.