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.
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.
Additional resource links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison
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