The prison of today is designed to provide direct or indirectly monitored inmates. Instead, inmates are placed in “pods”, all clustered in one central area www.steelcell.com/correctional-facility-design-standards-key-considerations-for-architects-and-planners/. Corrections officials constantly observe and engage with the inmates as they are spending most of their day together.
In addition, pod-based jails tend to be less expensive and promote a better environment in which inmates can recover.
However, this is still a new concept. It wasn’t till 1983 that direct supervision became a recognized method of corrections by the National Institute of Corrections. Why did we end up here?
– 19th Century
Modern prison design is rooted in the first “prison boom,” which took place in the late 17th century. Due to the Catholic Church’s influence, more and more communities started using imprisonment instead of traditional punishments such as death, torture or exile. England’s prison building boom was due to the Revolution which ended the ability of authorities to just exile criminals in America. Similar construction booms occurred in America because of the growing civilization and development of criminal justice.
The Gaols Act of1823 established the concept of prison classification. The design of prisons reflected this idea. Prison designers began to incorporate geometric shapes into their designs such as circles, rectangles, and squares.
The Panopticon design, envisioned and designed by prison-reform activist Jeremy Bentham, is one of the most iconic prison designs from this era. Panopticon had a circular design with prison cells built against the exterior wall. The keeper’s gallery was located in the center. This system allowed the guards to keep an eye on their prisoners without them being able to do so. Bentham said that there would be no need for constant monitoring because the prisoners wouldn’t know when they would be observed.
In the United States only a very few prisons are built to Panopticon standards. Stateville is the best-known prison in Illinois. It was constructed by prisoners between 1916-1924. A central guard tower with an underground entry allowed additional officers to enter any cellblock where there were disturbances. Bentham envisioned a radical prison system which would lower prison costs by up to 90% and promote inmate rehabilitation through the use of menial jobs. Unfortunately, Bentham’s Panopticon design was not suitable for housing prisoners. As a result of poor ventilation, the Panopticon’s cells were wet and prone to illness, leading ultimately to high rates of mortality. As a result of overcrowding, it was not possible to place unruly prisoners in isolation. Finally the prison had to be demolished.
It was the Panopticon that influenced a major design trend: radial architecture. Bentham kept the central building that houses his keeper but added prison wings, or halls which radiate out from it like spokes in a bicycle wheel. Raised cell designs were also used to provide better ventilation, heat, and stop prisoners digging in the floor. There were also problems with the sanitation of the cells and keeping prisoners under inspection.
Around the turn to the new century, designs of prisons continued to change. Lack of state and federal guidelines caused significant variation, though most prisons sought to reduce prisoner contacts. By the 1940s and 1930s, “telephone Pole” designs were the most prevalent. The central core of the design was an open corridor, with wings attached at 90 degrees to that corridor. Prisons such as the Maryland Reformatory (in Maryland), Soledad State Prison near Draper in Utah, Eastern State Penitentiary located in Graterford and Utah State Prison Draper were all built using this design.
During World War II and the Great Depression prison building was slowed dramatically. But as soon the war ended in 1945, U.S. prison building took off. A medical view of criminal justice influenced the building boom. According to this medical model, criminals were not responsible for the actions they committed. Instead society must diagnose and cure their illness. It could be due to a variety of factors, including psychological (mental disorders), sociological issues (family environments), economic problems (unemployment), or physical (bad diet). Prisons assumed responsibility for the rehabilitation and successful return of criminals to society.
The mid-1970s saw societal change, including rising crime rates. Conservative public attitudes. and high recidivism. This led to the adoption of an “aggressive” attitude towards offenders. The medical model was effectively replaced by the 1974 “Martinson report”. Martinson’s report outlined the ineffectiveness treatment programs. Martinson’s concepts led to the rise of a justice-based criminal justice system. People began to understand that they could take personal responsibility for the crimes committed. Offenders weren’t considered to be “ill” and were punished instead of treated. It was decided how long the punishment would last, and it wasn’t dependent on whether the treatment worked. Inmates were no longer rehabilitated, and the core mission of corrections was to keep them safe.
Direct Supervision Model and new Standards
Understanding the next big phase of prison construction requires more than just a familiarity with the move from the health care model to the justice system. The second half of 20th-century saw three important influences on the corrections system:
1). After the Second World War, there was a transition in corrections administration from a purely bureaucratic system to one that is more streamlined. In the corrections sector, patronage was not tolerated and neither were personal gains. Competence and accountability took precedence. Training and selection of personnel were priorities, along with refining the command structure and specializing in fields such as accounting, finance, law, or medical.
2). In 1965, Lyndon Johnson set up the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. Its mission was to combat national criminality and offer recommendations on ways of improving police functions, court systems, and correctional facilities. It was noted in the report that adequate staffing is a key factor to ensuring correctional effectiveness. The report made recommendations for drastic improvements in terms of selection, staff training, accountability, and supervision. As for the offenders themselves, they were encouraged to expand community-based services instead of using incarceration. Other recommendations included upgrading vocational and educational training, improving prisons, expanding graduate release and furlough programmes, providing different treatment for specific offender group, and using community resources as a means of reintegration. Partly as a consequence of this report, the American Correctional Association Commission on Accreditation created the first standards for correctional institutions.
3). The Civil Rights Act, and also habeascorpus were used by prisoners to file lawsuits against the correctional facility for violation of their federal rights. More facilities began operating according to judicial orders. This led the entire corrections industry to be held accountable for its “failure” to protect prisoners.
Direct Supervision emerged from all of these elements: management functions, bureaucratic evolution and judicial interference. Direct Supervision combines a variety of operational and management principles, as well as design features, to put officers in close contact with their inmates. By doing so, they can better get to learn about them, recognize potential problems, and take action before things escalate. They are also more in charge of organizing and managing the daily activities of the direct supervision housing unit since they live there. The direct supervision system has been credited as having reduced vandalism.
Direct Supervision is not just a way to improve jail management. It also requires a redesign of the prison. Local jails used to be rectangular linear structures, where corridors led directly to single cells that were placed at right angles. This design resulted (at the best) in an intermittent level of surveillance. The “Podular Remot” cellblock concept was developed to enhance officers’ ability to monitor inmates by incorporating a control center. Inmates and officers were separated by bars, glass walls, and other barriers. Officers entering “their’ territory caused tension among the inmates. Direct Supervision takes down barriers, installs control stations right inside the prisoner’s living space and keeps them in one room instead of separate cells. They are aware that they’re constantly under supervision, so officers can intervene immediately to deal with any problem. Electronic monitoring systems also provide additional protection.
Contra Costa County, California opened its first jail in 1981. Three firms, one each from New York and Chicago as well as San Diego, were selected by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to compete in a design contest. They all came up the same designs in order to meet BOP requirements for active, continuous supervision of prisoners. Today, the model is being used all over the United States.