The Life of State Prison Inmates

The life of state prison inmates vary from facility to facility and category to category. Some may be confined with minimal human interaction while others will have freedom to work, study, watch television, and listen to radio.

The Life of State Prison Inmates

Considering that US state prisons hold over one million state prison inmates it is only fair that we know what life in prison is like. The schedule varies of course from state prison to state prison and but the general affairs are similar. Even within the same facility the treatment of prison inmates varies depending up on their status. Some are given more freedom while others are confined and given minimum privileges and facilities.

State prison inmates are classified into supermax, maximum security, close security, medium security, and minimum security. The supermax inmates are the most dangerous; folks who are in for violent crimes or have a history of violence in prisons. Most state prisons have a separate supermax facility. Some states may even have entire prisons devoted to supermax prisoners. The supermax prisoners are confined in secure housing for 23 hours of the day and are let out for one hour of exercise (which is done in isolation). They are not allowed any human contact and their meals are delivered to the cell.

The maximum security state prison inmates are confined to a secure housing unit, one prisoner to a cell. The cell doors are remotely operated by means of a pod. The prisoners are not allowed any contact with other inmates and have their meals in their rooms. They are let out for an hour a day in a cage so that they can get exercise. They may be allowed to work (mainly stitching) have reading materials, and may be allowed to watch television on their own. But no contact is allowed unless they have earned it through good conduct. If they have to go out of the security housing unit they will have to move in chains accompanied by officers.

The close security state prison inmates share their cell with another person and may have more freedom than the maximum security people. Each cell would have its own toilet and sink. They may leave their housing for work or for correctional programs. They may even interact with others of their caliber but will be supervised more and are not allowed too much privacy. Medium security prisoners are allowed to stay in dorms, make use of community showers and dining areas, and are allowed to work (art, carpentry, welding, legal work etc) or study as they will. They are allowed to move freely within the prison walls and are allowed reading materials and television and radio time which may be revoked if they abuse their privileges. They need to get up at a specific time and need to go to their cells at a specific time but that is about it.

Minimum security state prison inmates stay in dorms are allowed community facilities and are usually housed in single fenced areas with no patrol (though there will be watches). They may take part in community projects and are usually housed with their future reintegration to society in mind.

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  1. John says:

    When I went to prison, probably craziest thing of my life. It was a private prison though, which are kind of a new thing I guess. I didn’t have to go through any pat downs or any thing like that, which was nice! haha It’s cause they had some sort of oral cavity screening chair thing like this one which was not intrusive at all. Luckily I got the heck outa there in about a week. Learned my lesson that’s for sure!

    • Sande says:

      i’m trying, unsuccessfully, to get an actual list of inmate rights. Right now I specifically need it for Kay county detention center, Newkirk, Oklahoma. My son has been there since Aug 11, 2016 & has been in 23 hour lock down(protective custody I suppose) and up until the beginning of this month was in a cell, most of time with someone else. His cellmate was transferred and within 3 days or so he got into a minor scwabble over the way his toeel was hanging, which resulted into a female guard entrering his cell alone and unannounced to jerk it down. another 3 or 4 days passed then he was taken out of a cell with 2 beds, where he was ALONE into a cell that was already occupied by 2 other inmates so he has to sleep on the floor with his crappy mat. He’s over 6’6 and , as you know, it’s a very small space to move around in much less sleep. he sleeps about 4 hours during the day and is up all night reading. He will go to a different county for court on something else & thankfully will be transferred until he “pulls chains” but his court isn’t until 4/20/17. It’s a violation of any basic right for_to be put in this situation not to mention the added stress, sleep deprivation & resulting inability to eat very easily due to teeth grinding…….. I live 600 miles away & there’s no family there to assist him. where do I go from here. In all honesty, if someone screws up they have to man up and deal, but no one, I don’t care who they are or what they’ve done should be treated this in way! They have other places to put an inmate if they cant house them even if it means keeping new arrests in city jail or holding until they figure it out. I hope someone reading this can help…..any information will be greatly appreciated!

      • Nancy says:

        Prisoners have rights not that many but they do have some. just google prisoners rights in Oklahoma, be careful though if you make waves your son will have it taken out on him by guards possibly! And it is a very big possibility! Pick and choose your fights mainly life and death! They do not take to snitches even if he is telling his mom. and if you do choose to fight make sure you have the local news or the ACLU or the center for law and justice. Or at least threaten with their involvement. Hope this helps. oh and comfort is not a matter of life and death the news will not touch it, he is in prison. I know that is your baby but got to choose your battles. my son is in the AL prison system it is like the 3rd most overcrowded in the nation, he has been there a little over a month and it is more horrible than I thought, so I do understand but unless he is in danger just try to advise him to show the staff the utmost respect even if they treat him like crap which they probably will they normally wont cross the line push shove scream yell slam them against the wall make it difficult for him but will not harm him physically, but if they do then step in, if you do it for petty things like being uncomfortable it will only make it worse for him,

  2. Julie says:

    Very interesting read and helps me understand just a little bit more how the system works. I have never (cannot even imagine) locked up…anywhere. Heck, I have not ever had a ticket!
    I came across this page and after exploring a bit, I feel less judgmental (I do admit I was…I am sorry) and more understanding.

  3. brandi says:

    how can you help a inmate a lesser sentence ? how is it decided what kind of prison an inmate goes too ?

  4. Rose says:

    I don’t know who is reading this posting and don’t know who might be responding back to me.
    I just would like to throw an idea out there and see what people think. When you send me back your opinion , I appreciate if you let me know who you are, prison administrator, families of prisoner, or an inmate who has first hand experience in the correction facilitiy.
    I have lived in US. For the last 22 years, and I have come from one of the middle East countries. Being out of US. Every one thought, US. Was heven so, when I came here, I prepared myself for heavenly fun. But to my surprise came 10-12 years of depression and loneliness.
    Ha? How could it be? I had to wear scarf by force, I had to see so many inequalities in my family and in the society against women and still was happier there back in my home town?

    Any way it turned out, I did not have any clue what makes me happy and creates Inner Peace in my heart. Since then, I worked so much to find true happiness and Inner peace. And realized a good percentage of people are living a life filled with stress and unhappiness.

    But normal people are too busy to talk to me and here my experience, I am wondering if the inmate community, would like to hear the story of my life and see how I found happiness. I am hoping I can reach out to as many people as possible and be an agent in creating joy and peace in their heart. It will help them both places. In or out of prison. It will help them with their family life and social life. Any body interested in a live speaker.

  5. Mary Anderson says:

    What is the process for ordering personal items and stamps?

  6. Brenda Cook says:

    would like to know why the Ga. diagnostic and classification state prison put up with rats and cockroaches in the kitchen! people can get very sick.

  7. Mary Sanford says:

    How can I find out if my son is minimum security or which level he is?

  8. S. F. says:

    My son is at SCI Fayette. Not knowing anything about prison’s I was surprised and thankful with how we were treated. I feel if they treat the family of inmates with the respect they deserve, they will also display that same level (at least) with the inmate. Fayette appears to be clean and the guards have been helpful and friendly when we visited. What a blessing.
    We do hope for a better commissary in the near future. They need more selection, possibly ask a majority of inmates their likes and supply those items in the vending machines. Also, it would be more of a welcoming gesture if there were more tables. While visiting our family enjoyed sitting at the table playing cards, eating, catching up etc. it felt as if we were in our own kitchen socializing and laughing as a family having an ordinary day. Personally that brings my son and us much comfort.
    As far as children visiting….I wish 1. there would be a cozier feel for fathers with their kids. re: bean bags, more tables for drawing together, etc. 2. possibly have pictures taken in that environment with their kid/kids. basically for the kids, when they look back on the photo its a positive happy memory of a interaction with their absentee parent, not a stand at attention pose.
    I wish my son had not made the stupid mistake of his crime, totally out of character, to know that one misjudgment has cost him his life, has pained us in ways to deep to put into words.
    For him to have never entered the crime scene, to have remained outside unknowing, that just being present has taken his freedom of tomorrows from his daughter, family, and friends for the rest of his life, talk about devastation….that’s too mild a word.
    SCI Fayette has become his home (for now) and we do have comfort with the facility that he will be safe and treated with the same respect he offers the faculty everyday. I have peace of mind that he is there, for that I am thankful.

  9. Lillie Y says:

    My son is at a state prison in Kenedy Texas. He has been up for parole for his first charge five times. He has been a model inmate for the past 22 years. Has been working for over 15 years, and have gotten several certificates in trade. Also got his GED last year. He got into a fight with another inmate and the inmate hit him, and he hit the inmate back and the inmate fell and hit his head on the corner of the bench, had a seizure and died. That is how he got a second charge. So far he has not made parole on the first charge , so he can start working on his second charge, He was 19 years old when he became an inmate and now he is 47. He is remorseful and turned his life around 15 years ago, but the parole board refuses to give him parole on his first charge. The way it looks, he will spend the rest f his life in prison.

  10. Mark Garcia says:

    I know that he is alive and well; therefore, it will be like a blink of an eye and your son will be in your arms like old days together. The Texas Parole System is broken and as long as inmates keep occupying all of the beds built. The Parole System can will never change. We must teach our young to stop getting their SS Number entangled with the Texas Parole System…’s a great business.

    My suggestion is to contact Austin and send them some Parole Support letters. Be patient and ask our creator that you need your son because there is no doubt in my mind that he is a changed man, the inmate that died did something wrong and one quick defense punch caused him to stop living and your son to start a new sentence…….that is not right but, just pray and have faith in Him and things will turn out like they should.

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