Jails Old And New Sociology Essay

With the advent of civilization and ever improving societies, man has found the need for several constants. The needs for shelter, food and security have been just a few of these constants…as has the need for incarceration of some of those members of society that have chosen not to follow the rules that a particular society has deemed as necessary. For those members, jails and prisons were built to hold people before or after a conviction, it is not meant to be a permanent stop for those convicted, just a placeholder.

The first jail built was believed to be in 1166, ordered by King Henry II of England, from there jails spread throughout Europe but changed in scope and size over time. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) Workhouses and poorhouses were developed in the 15th and 16th centuries in England where sheriffs took the role of supervising vagrants, the poor and the mentally ill. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) These so-called jails were not sanitized and had unhealthy conditions for the prisoners. This caught the attention of 18th century reformers. One such reformer was English sheriff John Howard. In 1779, England’s Parliament passed the four jail reforms that Howard proposed: secure and sanitary structures, jail inspections, elimination of fees, and an emphasis on reforming prisoners. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011)

The first jail in the United States was the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia, built in 1773; it housed offenders without regard to sex, age, or offense. The Philadelphia Quakers had wanted the Walnut Street Jail to be a place where inmates reformed themselves through reflection and remorse, but shortly after its opening, it turned into a “promiscuous scene of unrestricted intercourse, universal riot and debauchery”. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) On October 5, 1835, the Walnut Street Jail closed and those prisoners were transported to another facility. By the close of the 19th century, most cities across the United States had jails to hold persons awaiting trial and to punish convicted felons. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) So, what has changed in the jail population and structures since they were first built? Back in the day, prisoners were treated inhumane, beaten, flogged, and even hung for their crimes. In today’s jail society, those types of treatment are nothing but a moment in history. There are laws governing the treatment of prisoners and prisoners now have “rights” on how they are treated. The 8th Amendment, ratified in 1791, protects persons convicted of a crime to not have excessive bail or fines imposed, nor to have cruel and unusual punishment inflicted. (Head) I tend to somewhat disagree with this due to some persons crimes are so hideous that they deserve fines and/or cruel and unusual punishment, I mean look what some of those criminals do to their victims! I think they deserve the same treatment as they gave those victims, but that is just my personal opinion.

The design and structure of the jails have also changed. Jails have changed throughout history, and have been through four phases of design, First-Generation, Second-Generation, Third-Generation and Fourth-Generation.

First-Generation jails were designed back in the 18th century, and were called ‘linear design”. In this design, prisoners lived in cells or dormitories. The cells lined up in the corridors and the inmate supervision was minimal. Staff would walk the corridors and would not be able to see into the cell until they were right up on it. The idea of this type of design was to keep prevent inmates from trying to escape and to keep the staff safe. I would describe this type of jail setting as isolated. The downfall to this type of setting is no type of social contact with anyone unless a fight broke. This was not a solution to what needed to be done in order for the prisoners to “reform”. These types of jails were more like solitary confinement, which over time would literally drive a person insane.

The Second-Generation jails emerged in the 1960’s to replace old, rundown linear jails and provide staff officers to observe inmates in a central zone or better known as a control booth, of the jail. The conception of the second-generation jails was for staff to be centralized in one area, which was enclosed in glass for security, to overlook the “pods”. These jails have been termed “podular remote-supervision facilities”. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) This type of jail has its difficulties. The advantage for this type of jail is that the staff can see more of the inmates without having to walk down a corridor. The disadvantage for this type of jail is that the staff and inmates are still separated and with no social contact, much like the first-generation jails.

The Third-Generation jails, which are also known as direct-supervision jails, were introduced in the early 1970’s. The housing unit is podular. The cells are arranged around a common area or dayroom. There is not control booth and no physical barriers between the staff and the inmates. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) The first direct-supervision county jail in the United States was the Martinez Detention Facility in Contra Cost, California. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) With the direct-supervision jails come the principles of Direct Supervision: 1. Effective control, 2. Effective supervision, 3. Competent staff, 4. Staff and inmate safety, 5. Manageable and cost-effective operations, 6. Effective communication, 7. Classification and orientation, 8. Justice and fairness, and 9. Ownership of operations. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) Direct-supervision jails facilitate staff movement, interaction with inmates, and control and leadership over pods. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011) With direct-supervision, staff and inmates intermingle and this is a positive movement towards the reformation of the inmates and their social skills. You cannot just put someone back into society if he/she has had no contact with other people over a certain amount of time. When you are alone, after a while you get use to the idea of being alone and you get “set in your ways” and adopt a certain way of doing things. Take my brother for example, no he was not in jail, but he had been living on his own after his divorce for about 10 years and when he recently remarried, it was difficult for him to adapt to new lifestyle that involved another person. He had to adjust his ways that he had been accustomed to and to accept new ideas and new “rules” for the house. This was very difficult for him and it goes along the same line for inmates. People need social interaction and with the third-generation jails they received it.

The Fourth-Generation jails brought improvements to the direct-supervision jails by adding “borrowed light” or natural sunlight into the day room. This improves the moral of the inmates and staff and saves on electricity bills when it is sunny outside. Along with the borrowed light concept, the fourth-generation jails also implemented program services, more staff, volunteers, and visitors to the jail, even vending machines to the day room. This reduces the feeling of isolation. This improvement adds to the staff the ability to carry out the nine principles of direct-supervision. (Schmalleger & Smykla, 2011)

Along with these new generation jails requires new interpersonal skills. Officers and staff must have excellent interpersonal skills. They must be able to address minor and major conflicts within the pods, even though in the new generation jails, especially the fourth-generation jails, conflicts are at a minimal rate due to the improved conditions and the attitudes of both the inmates and the staff. Reports have shown that the staff “no longer saw themselves as mere guards or defined their jobs as simply to keep criminals locked up”. Among the positive impacts, the officers and staff tend to see the jails as “cleaner, less crowded, having fresher air, and being more temperate”. However, these same researches also showed, even with the improvements, that the staff was no more satisfied than with the new generation jails than the traditional jails. (Appegate & Paoline, 2007) I can see how the “cleaner” jails could be a positive effect on the staff and inmates. Take for example, you are invited over to a friends’ house and it is totally in chaos and messy. The friend might be comfortable in that type of environment, but you are not so comfortable. If the environment were cleaner and more organized, you would be more comfortable and able to relax and enjoy that visit. Same thing with jails, the cleaner and organized it is, the more positive the attitudes of the staff and inmates. They will be more prone to communicate and “follow the rules” than in a run-down, unstructured type of jail. Another point of view would be that if an inmate can see that the place he/she is housed and it is not being take care of properly, what makes them think that anyone cares to find ways of improving it, that the facility is complacent with the conditions? Not that I would want to experience jail life, I would prefer it to be clean, healthy and somewhat a positive environment.

With the improvements of the third and fourth generation jails brought, it also brought controversy and disadvantages. Results from studies show that few jails are strictly adhering to the new design techniques that have been recommended for the successful operations of these new generation jails. (Tartaro, 2002) Overcrowding is a popular problem in today’s jails and even thought the crime rate is down, there is still overcrowding. Another problem the new generation jails have is the age of the offenders has increased and having the necessary accommodations for these “elder” prisoners. In the traditional jails, there were no medical treatments available, in today’s jails, most jails offer medical treatment, but only on the same level as lower income families. Studies have also shown that inmates with disabilities are a growing problem in that they were discriminated against and most jails do not have the means to house inmates with disabilities, and I mentioned earlier, the 8th amendment protects this group of prisoners in today’s society. (Ginsberg, 2009)

In closing, the research I have done I have learned that the differences in the “old” jails and the “new” jails are similar in some ways and totally opposite in other ways. I believe that in the old jails and the way they were imprisoned were more likely not to repeat their offenses, and in the new jails, offenders are likely to repeat their offenses. In the old jails, inmates were brought into the public eye and were embarrassed by their actions. The old, traditional jails were not focused on reforming the prisoners; they were more focused on punishment to these criminals. In today’s jails, we are more focused on reformation of the prisoners and trying to help them merge back into the society from what they once came from, but as I have learned in class, some inmate repeat their offenses because the jail life is better life than what they had. They may have come from broken homes, life of poverty and the jails give them a place of security and more of a home life than what they had. As sad as this is, it is true and with the economy the way it is, this would seem like a better life. New generation emerged due to society to “stand against the inhumane treatment that convicts were submitted to and to require the transformation of detention places from excusive instruments of punishment into establishments of moral recuperation” (Merei, 2012) Merei also stated that “in the nineteenth century, it was developed the concept according to which jails could become, from the means of expiation of the evil committed, social sanctums for healing the soul of the one in conflict with the laws of society” . In Merei’s report, she mentioned that a man named Panait Mucoiu made a categorical statement, which sums it all up. Mucoiu stated, “As long as you take the men’s freedom, you will definitely not transform him into a better person. You will harvest relapse. By incarcerating him and by giving him, every moment, the conviction that everything that happens in detention is a punishment, the society proceeds with all its resources to make him an enemy”. (Merei, 2012)

Appegate, B. K., & Paoline, E. A. (2007, June). Jail Officer’s Perceptions of the Work Environment In Traditional Versus New Generation Facilities. Retrieved November 21, 2012, from ProQuest Criminal Justice: http:search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.uwf.edu/criminaljusticeperiod…

Ginsberg, B. (2009, June). Out with the new, in with the old: the importance of section 504 of the Rehabiliation Act to prisoners with disabilites. p. 713.

Head, T. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2012, from About.com Civil Liberties: http://civilliberty.about.com/od/lawenforcementterrorism/p/8th_amendment.htm

Merei, L. E. (2012, January). The affirmation of the renewing current of prison reform in the 19th century Romanian thinking. p. 313.

Schmalleger, F., & Smykla, J. (2011). Corrections in the 21st Century. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Tartaro, C. (2002, September ). Examining Implementation Issues with New Generation Jails. Retrieved November 21, 2012, from Sage Journals: http://cjp.sagepub.com.ezproxy.lib.uwf.edu/content/13/3/219

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