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View Full Version : Can you stay in your cell when you're in prison?



NewKidOldKid
02-03-2011, 02:50 PM
Do you have to get out of your cell for "social time" etc.? Or can you choose to stay in your cell every day, forever? I have a woman who's been sent to prison for three years. Can she choose to stay in her cell and let's say, study or is she forced to join the others in the yard?

Pistol Whipped Bee
02-03-2011, 05:39 PM
She has to leave it.

alleycat
02-03-2011, 05:42 PM
It's going to vary. Some prisons allow someone to choose "voluntary segregation"--where they don't mingle with the general prison population.

Of course, there are going to be times when they make you leave the cell, even if you're segregated.

RJK
02-03-2011, 08:19 PM
She'd have to leave to eat and shower, etc. They don't have room service in prison. I think they may have mandatory duties, like working in the laundry, or kitchen duties, etc. not really sure.

Birol
02-03-2011, 08:39 PM
In many prisons, working is a privilege. It's one of the few ways prisoners can earn money to spend for non-essentials.

Shakesbear
02-03-2011, 09:07 PM
I think it depends what she has been sent down for. Some prisoners are segregated for their own protection but how far that goes may depend on the type/category of prison she is in.

JimmyB27
02-03-2011, 09:29 PM
In many prisons, working is a privilege. It's one of the few ways prisoners can earn money to spend for non-essentials.
Bah, what happened to chain gangs? Things were tougher in my day *muttermuttergrumblegroanmutter*

She could knife someone and get solitary...

jclarkdawe
02-04-2011, 12:01 AM
Each prison and jail is set up somewhat differently. But the general system is three major levels: max, minimum, and medium custody. Within each level, there can be a lot of subdivisions, both official and unofficial. Then factor over this capacity. Most prisons were designed at one level of capacity, but have been modified to increase the capacity. Prison is a growth industry.

Minimum security is usually barracks style living, with it not being uncommon to have fifty or more inmates in the same living area. Minimum security inmates have to have demonstrated consistent good behavior and are frequently within a year or two of release. Inmates will be earning good time, and will have a job.

Medium security is where the bulk of the inmates will be. Medium security ranges in cell size from two to as many as ten or twelve inmates in a cell. Cells originally designed for one inmate will usually have been doubled up, cells designed for two inmates might contain four, and so on. Besides the bunks, the cell with have a toilet and sink, and maybe a mini-desk. Everything is steel and bolted.

As an off-shoot of medium, you have protective custody. Protective custody is for inmates who cannot survive in the general population. Suckiest place to be in prison. PC inmates are the most annoying people in the world, which is why they can't survive in general population. PC does not get you individual cells unless the prison has a lot of space. Again, the cells contain anywhere from two to ten or twelve inmates.

Minimum and medium security inmates usually have a common area. It consists of a TV, chairs and tables bolted to the floor, with the cells opening onto the common area. Doors are unlocked to the cells electronically, and the inmates cannot lock the doors. The common area with usually have one or two guards patrolling and is monitored by cameras.

Minimum and medium security inmates eat in the mess hall, usually on a building by building rotation. Some prisons and jails, however, will truck the food over to the cell blocks, and serve it there, with inmates eating in the common area. You may be allowed to carry your tray back to your cell, but not usually. Showers are off the common area as well and may be available at any time or just on limited schedule.

Then there is maximum security. Here you see major changes in how the prison is structured. Maximum security rarely has more than two per cell, and if you're mean enough and bad enough, you get a cell to yourself. You're in the cell 23 out of 24, 7 days a week. You get the hour in an area the size and structure of a large dog kennel, including a wired roof. Food is served in your cell, and isn't going to be too warm. Inmates can be restricted as to whether they get a spork. Inmates in maximum security are not usually earning good time credits.

Many states do not have a maximum security prison for women and have to export them to other states. Women inmates tend to be a bit more crowded than men, as the violence level is a bit muted.

Realize that there are pluses and minuses to staying in your cell. Individual cells are not monitored as closely as the common areas, so if you want to attack someone, it is actually easier in their cell than outside. Privacy, as normally defined, doesn't exist in a prison, so that would not be a consideration in wanting to stay in your cell.

An inmate remaining in her cell would probably not be considered to be "reformed" and in some systems, would not be earning good time credits. She would not be working to develop so that she could be released early.

Understand that individual jails and prisons are all unique.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

JulieHowe
02-04-2011, 12:46 AM
Do you have to get out of your cell for "social time" etc.? Or can you choose to stay in your cell every day, forever? I have a woman who's been sent to prison for three years. Can she choose to stay in her cell and let's say, study or is she forced to join the others in the yard?

No adult prisoner can be forced to take part in education, although refusing to join a GED study group or sit through drug education courses (even if you don't have a history of drug addiction) could later be viewed negatively by the parole board. As someone else mentioned here, refusing to leave the cell can also become part of her file, and if she's viewed as noncooperative (even if she's terrified for her life, or mentally ill and really unable to follow the rules), she'll be written up for her behavior. Parole boards pore over these details when it's time for an inmate to be considered eligible for parole.

A single-celled prisoner is less common these days, especially in women's prisons - with a premium on space and budget cuts, only an inmate in need of protection (either from herself or someone else) would probably be given a single cell. This is usually called PC, protective custody, a keep-away, or segregation. Ad Seg (administrative segregation) is a term used in some prisons, and usually signifies a prisoner who was placed into segregation because of her behavior.

No inmate can be forced into yard time, although she would, at a minimum, have to leave her cell while another inmate (often called a trusty or trustee) mops the floor. As far as I know, the only prisoners who receive meals in their cells are those placed into protective custody or segregation. Communal meals (eaten with a thousand of your closest friends) in a cafeteria setting are the cheapest and most economical means of feeding thousands of prisoners at mealtime.

An inmate placed into a high level of segregation might have a cell with a shower in the room, with the water turned on only at predetermined times of day. At a minimum, there's probably a toilet and sink in the cell. The toilets are usually completely within sight of guards walking down the hallway. Yup. No matter what the rulebook says, it's not uncommon for a female prisoner to be seen by male guards while she's sitting on the toilet or getting dressed.

Edited to add: These comments should be understood as relevant to American incarceration. European jail and prison systems (especially in Great Britain) have an entirely different arrangement and seem to be focused more on the rehabilitation of prisoners.

rainsmom
02-04-2011, 02:12 AM
An inmate remaining in her cell would probably not be considered to be "reformed" and in some systems, would not be earning good time credits. She would not be working to develop so that she could be released early.
<grin> So a person who doesn't want to socialize with felons is considered... a bad person? Yeah, that's a screwed up system.

JimmyB27
02-04-2011, 02:26 AM
I think you should watch Porridge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porridge_%28TV%29), with Ronnie Barker. You'll learn naff all about modern prison life, but you will see a master comic at work. ;)

glutton
02-04-2011, 07:15 AM
No adult prisoner can be forced to take part in education, although refusing to join a GED study group

Would a prisoner who already has a high school diploma or better still be asked to do this? Just curious...

jclarkdawe
02-04-2011, 07:56 AM
Originally Posted by JulieHowe http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5785475#post5785475)
No adult prisoner can be forced to take part in education, although refusing to join a GED study group
Would a prisoner who already has a high school diploma or better still be asked to do this? Just curious...

Simple answer is no. If you have a GED or high school diploma, a prison would consider you educated.

However, many inmates who have a high school diploma may need to take some type of educational program for job re-training, as many jobs have a no felony requirement. Prisons develop individual programs of counseling, work, and education based upon the needs of the individual inmate. The lack of opportunities limits the reality of how useful some of this training is, but tell a warden that not everybody can utilize skills in metal shop (i.e., license plate making) and you'll get a long answer as to why it works. Programs for inmates are set up even if the inmate is going to never leave prison.

Further, someone with education is frequently utilized by the prison to help other inmates. For example, at the NH State Prison, for a while the law librarian was a former lawyer who forgot to check the girl's ID for her age. An orderly in the prison hospital was a paramedic before his vacation after some confusion on his part about ownership issues. And a high school teacher taught GED classes after forgetting the lesson of turning the other cheek.

Classes (either teaching or attending) are great for the parole board and better than sitting around and doing nothing.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

NewKidOldKid
02-04-2011, 09:36 AM
<grin> So a person who doesn't want to socialize with felons is considered... a bad person? Yeah, that's a screwed up system.

Thanks for all the info everybody!

This was my initial thought. My character killed somebody in self-defense but other than that she's a very quiet, introverted person. She wants to use the time in jail to complete college classes. SHe doesn't want to interact with the other immates because there's a lot of violence in this particular prison. It seems stupid that she'd be forced to spend time with violent criminals rather than being allowed to stay quietly in her cell. Ok, I get that she has to get out to eat and shower, but I was hoping she would not be forced to spend time on the yard, where there's little protection for her.

JulieHowe
02-04-2011, 10:25 AM
Would a prisoner who already has a high school diploma or better still be asked to do this? Just curious...

No. I was just using that as an example, although I am aware of many incarcerated people who signed up for drug-addiction classes, parenting courses, anger management, or whatever else they were offered, even if the class didn't fit any of their personal needs.

jclarkdawe
02-04-2011, 07:03 PM
Thanks for all the info everybody!

This was my initial thought. My character killed somebody in self-defense but other than that she's a very quiet, introverted person. She wants to use the time in jail to complete college classes. SHe doesn't want to interact with the other immates because there's a lot of violence in this particular prison. It seems stupid that she'd be forced to spend time with violent criminals rather than being allowed to stay quietly in her cell. Ok, I get that she has to get out to eat and shower, but I was hoping she would not be forced to spend time on the yard, where there's little protection for her.

When an inmate arrives at a prison, they go through an intake process, lasting from a few days to a couple of months. Part of the delay here may be space availability in other parts of the prison. But this intake period is important, and in your case needs to be understood, because it's going to present massive problems to your character.

Because self-defense is an affirmative defense to a crime (in other words, I was justified in my actions and therefore not guilty), she won't go to prison convicted of self-defense. She will have been convicted of some level of homicide.

People who are convicted of homicide are violent people. Her explanation that this occurred in self-defense would be viewed as weaseling by the prison and ignored. Depending upon the prison, all people convicted of homicide are set to max, usually a two person cell. Now some prisons, because of space, don't do this for manslaughter, but that's the exception, not the rule.

This is done even when everybody knows the person is likely never to kill again. Wife killers are some of the least dangerous people in prison, yet this is what happens to them. Young people who are just shark chum who killed on the outside are set to max. So the likelihood is that she will end up in max is high.

For her to get parole, she's going to need to work to show that she can be safely returned to society. This includes showing she has the skills to work with other people. Hiding in her cell isn't going to show any progress. And if her argument is that she only kills in self-defense, hiding in her cell is going to cause further questions about her ability to deal with society.

Protection in prison is not about where the guards are. Because every inmate learns quickly where the guards are and aren't and learns to deal with that fact. Protection in prison is all about you as a person and how you control the environment instead of letting the environment control you. Your ability to read situations and people is what matters.

Despite rumors to the contrary, chum is not given to the sharks until the chum shows an inability to survive in calmer environments. All chum does is stir up the waters and no prison wants that. The whole idea of running a prison is to try as much as possible to keep the chum and the sharks separate, so that the prison looks like a millpond.

I just read an article about a con woman sent to Riker's, arguably one of the most dangerous prisons in the United States. She'll convince you she did hard time in a dangerous prison. Yeah, right. She was in a low security area where everybody was working to get out. More dangerous than most places, but not really that dangerous. And one in which many people survive. Riker's has some real shark pits, and yeah, you can die quickly there. But that isn't the whole prison.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe