Criminal Justice Research Paper on Corrections



The mandate of the Federal Bureau of Prison is to institute measures that protect the society. The bureau uses its constitutional authority to confine offenders who have been sentenced by courts of law in controlled environments of community-based facilities and prisons (Prior, 2017). These environments must be safe, cost-efficient, humane, and appropriately secure. They should also be designed such that they provide different self-improvement opportunities such as work to ensure that they assist offenders in their desire to become law-abiding citizens. The objectives of corrections in the United States are to institute certain measures in the form of punishments, but that also enhance the capacity of the offenders to be acceptable and productive to the society upon completion of their sentencing (Prior, 2017). This research paper will investigate the approaches and processes that define the correctional prison system in the United States.  

Correctional prison system in the United States

Prisoner classification

Prisoner classification is an integral aspect and process in the understanding of the operations of the United States correctional prison system. Prisoner classification is an internal process that is provided for by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to sort inmates based on three major factors: intimate needs, internal security, and external security (Prior, 2017). For the prison system in the United States, the highest priority is on security followed by the subsequent classification of prisoners based on their intimate needs.

Prisoner classification based on internal security assess the extent to which an inmate is likely to be involved in any form of misconduct, violence or the creation of disturbance within the prisons. This will prompt the prisons department to alter the type of housing, level of supervision, and limit the possibility of an inmate mixing or interacting with other prisoners. These are techniques of mitigating or minimizing the threat of internal security (Slater, 2017).

External security entails the probability of escape from prison. This classification determines the prisoner who will be transferred to maximum-security areas and those who will be incarcerated in prisons with relatively less security detail. Prisoners with a high likelihood of escaping are often transferred to facilities with detailed security such as gun towers, fences, and high perimeter walls (Slater, 2017). The objective of the prisons is to isolate wrongdoers from the public and to confine them in a controlled environment where they can serve their sentences while also engaging in self-improvement initiatives to enhance the possibility of being law-abiding and productive citizens once they complete their sentences (Slater, 2017). It is therefore critical that they serve their time in prison hence the need to determine their level of threat to the security apparatus established by the prisons.

Whether an inmate possesses internal or external threat, the constitution of the United States requires that all inmates must be assessed and classified according to their intimate needs. This is because it is the responsibility of the prisons as correctional facilities to carry out the sentencing of the courts they also have the responsibility of protecting and enhancing the lives of inmates as stipulated in the eighth amendment of the United States constitution (Prior, 2017). This means that other than providing a clean and safe environment, it is important to classify prisoners according to their medical needs or health requirements. For instance, expectant inmates must be provided with prenatal services to ensure that their health and that of their babies are stable, cancer inmates also have the necessity of chemotherapy while prisoners with communicable diseases have to be isolated to minimize the possibility of infecting other inmates intentionally or unintentionally (Prior, 2017). The objective of this classification clause is to ensure that inmates are not subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. Furthermore, it also ensures that the human rights of the prisoners as documented in the Bill of Rights is protected and advanced by the prison system.

Underlying issues with the prison classification in the United States there are situations in which prisoners are classified according to their crimes. However, existing studies suggest the absence of a single independent variable that relates to violence or misconduct in prisons. This is because ineffective approaches to the classification of prisoners can be dangerous to the employees of the prisons and the inmates (Prior, 2017). To address this concern, it is important to ensure that the classification system is relevant in terms of its ability to realize its intended purpose. In an attempt to prove the essence of prison classification according to their threat to security and intimate needs, Sorenson surveyed 231 inmates in a medium security prison (Prior, 2017). In his findings, he stated that prisoners who were sentenced for violent offenses were not likely to engage in misconduct or commit violence within prisons compared to inmates sentenced on nonviolent behavior. The process of prisoner classification should be based on age. This is because research indicates that as prisoners age they decrease their incidences of misconduct or violent behavior within the prisons (Prior, 2017). This means that as prisoners grow older they become less aggressive and susceptible to lifestyle illnesses. This explains the need to assess them based on their intimate needs.

Despite the existence of a correlation between age and the possibility of violence, the United States Department of Justice National Institute of Corrections (DJNIC) considers age as the least determining factor when assessing prisoner classification. For the DJNIC and other agencies in charge of prison affairs, prisoner classification the severity of the conviction should be the main variable and determining the factor of the threat to internal and external security (Prior, 2017). This is followed by an inmate’s history of escapes and violence. Such information is considered vital in enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of the prisoner classification system.

From the studies conducted by Sorenson, it is possible to assert that the correctional prison system in the United States has been involved in an inefficient way of classifying prisoners. From an intuitive perspective, it may be sensible to separate violent criminal offenders, there is disconnect in their life as inmates and their lives as outside the prisons. Prisons have the responsibility of introducing and implementing regulatory measures to the lives prisoners live while serving their punishment. This means that they have the responsibility of classifying prisoners according to the strongest determining factor of the possibility that they will be involved in misconduct or violence.

Prisoner safety

In their design, prisons were not intended to provide inmates with pleasant living conditions. Instead, the objective was to subject inmates to a controlled environment that limits certain aspects of free citizens as a means of deterring them from repeating or engaging in other crimes upon completing their sentence (Slater, 2017). Despite this objective, the constitution of the United States under the eighth amendment sets limits to the level of strife that a prisoner can undergo. Prisons have the obligation of restricting liberty by stripping freedom in response to an act against the norms and values of the society (Slater, 2017). This implies that inmates have fewer rights compared to ordinary citizens.

Despite the limits inmates do not lose, all rights because they have to, at all times, retain their humanity. The American constitution gives power and authority to the prisons department to condemn and criminalize any form of acts of violence within the prison. This includes sexual or physical violence. Prison safety is considered as an aspect of priority to prison administration because of the prevailing understanding that the criminal minds of inmates make them, susceptible to be perpetrators or victims of acts of violence within the prisons (Slater, 2017). Violence in American prisons is routine and an expected aspect part of the reason for high level of violence in American person can be attributed to the prisoner classification system. Furthermore, existing research indicates that within proses there is an inherent power structure, which is developed with the currency of fear, which is often defined along racial backgrounds. This has resulted in the formation of prison gangs, which are responsible for most of the violence and drug trafficking in prisons (Slater, 2017). It is under the command of the gang leader that members of the gang inflict fear among other prisoners with the objective of remaining dominant within the prisons.

Privatization of American prisons

The exponential growth of the number of people being incarcerated necessitated the United States federal government to begin contracting its prison population to private facilities in the 1980s. The need to shrink the federal deficit in the 1990s accelerated the policy of privatizing prisons. In the contemporary American society, that policy has been established considering that approximately 20 corporation’s house 30, 000 prisoners in 27 states. There are two companies, Wackenhut control, and Correctional Corporation of America controlling about 74% of the private prison population (Prior, 2017).

Inasmuch as privatization of American prisons appears to be an effective cost a saving technique in addressing the prison population problem, the policy has resulted in the development of numerous problems with limited benefits. From a theoretical perspective, private prisons have the ability to garner more gains because they provide efficient services. It is possible that they may be efficient, but they are relatively costly to construct and manage considering that, they are profit oriented (Slater, 2017). Their desire to invest with the objective of generating certain benefits may imply that private prisons may spend limited financial resources and this has cast doubt on their efficiency. This means that such institutions may be ineffective in meeting the correctional objective of all prison facilities. Their desire to function on low operating cost implies that it may be necessary for the private prisons to operate with minim number of prison guards for a maximum number of inmates (Slater, 2017). This approach may be a cost-saving initiatives but it threatens the safety of the prisoners and that of prison employees.

An additional inefficiency of private prisons is that they do not engage in lobbying efforts seeking limited incarcerations. This is because these facilities depend on a large population of prisoners as a way of maintaining the level of efficiency necessary in returning profits. Inasmuch as this may not seem like a problem considering the large incarceration in the United States, private prisons often ensure that these rates remain high by lobbying for the enhancement of tough criminal legislations. The initial objective of private prisons as solutions to the problem of the high population of inmates, they are currently perceived as the major contributors to the problem. These institutions may be assisting in alleviating budgetary problems of the state and federal government, but they do not assist in matters of prisoner safety and prisoner classification hence the need for freedoms in the correctional prison system in the United States.

Incarceration rates and correspondence programs

The high population of incarcerated citizens defines the prison system in America. This is because currently about 2.5 million Americans have been incarcerated with about 75% of those released having a high likelihood of being rearrested and 50% of them returned to incarceration (Prior, 2017). The increase in the number of prisoners can be attributed to the tough legislations to those who violate the law. This has compelled the federal and state governments to increase their budgetary allocations on the expansion of prisons, training of more prison wardens and the introduction of technology in monitoring prisons. The objective of investing additional financial resources is to ensure that prisons operate with utmost efficiency and effectiveness in relation their intended objective (Slater, 2017). Furthermore, the expansion of prison facilities and an increase in the number of trained wardens is also aimed at ensuring that with the increase in the population of inmates, prison warders have the capacity and skills of managing the inmates according to the stipulations of the constitution. Through the code of conduct, prison wardens are provided with necessary for effective management of inmates.

The high rates of incarceration have also meant that the prisons must enhance their capacity in providing self-improvement skills through training prisoners on business, academic and life skills. The provision of higher education has been a defining feature of state and federal prisons in the United States. The objective of this approach to executing the sentencing of the courts is to ensure that prisoners with the ability to learn are provided with a relevant and updated curriculum that increases their employability prospects despite their incarceration (Prior, 2017). In the United States, the ability of the prisons department to integrate its activities with those of institutions of higher learning has been instrumental in the production of inmates with relatively high and competitive academic qualifications for the job market. This approach is considered as respecting the constitutional right of access to proper education for all Americans irrespective of the prevailing circumstances that define their lives. For the prison systems in the United States, programs such as Pell grant access have been perceived to be instrumental in facilitating self-development initiatives (Slater, 2017).

Existing studies indicate that a high percentage of prisoners have low education attainment .This makes prison education an effective platform that can help inmates in the acquisition of skills necessary for employability. Furthermore, the prisons consider Pell grant to be critical in improving access to college education. This has been critical in removing major barriers such as lack of funding for underprivileged inmates (Prior, 2017). The collaboration between the American prison system and institutions of higher learning is because of the essence of education as an effective reentry strategy. This is because of the realization that majority of inmates were involved in criminal activities as a technique of acquiring the means of survival (Slater, 2017). The deficit in relevant skills and knowledge can be considered as an effective approach towards addressing the challenges.  

Correspondence courses are also methodologies that correctional prison system in the United States has introduced with the objective of enhancing self-improvement. This is based on the realization that majority of those under incarceration have been subjected to relatively complex social situations throughout their lives (Prior, 2017). The prison system considers it their responsibility to provide prisoners with alternative and better lives. Correspondence courses provide ways through which inmates can learn a skill or trade. Correspondence courses are therefore avenues of giving prisoners platforms of improving on their economic and social situations (Slater, 2017). The objective of these courses is to provide prisoners with ways of reevaluating themselves to make them realize that they have a responsibility to themselves and the society. The correspondence courses provided by the prisons are often aligned with the specific needs and interests of the inmates. This means that upon incarceration the prisoners are expected to provide details about their professional and life skills objectives (Slater, 2017). The prisons engage different institutions with the objective of collaborating towards the realization of the professional and social objectives of the prisoners while in prison and after they have served their sentences.

There are courses that deal with substance abuse, anger management, self-awareness, and parenting. These courses are meant to help inmates in the development of personal strategies on how to overcome self-destructive behavior and negative thoughts. Furthermore, they are also responsible for providing prisoners with life skills that are critical in enhancing their self-esteem and self-confidence as ways of ensuring that prisoners can adjust effectively in the society after being released (Slater, 2017). An additional way through which the American correctional prison system has been able to enhance the capacity of prisoners is through personal enrichment and personal development correspondence programs for prisoners. Through these programs, the prison department aims at engaging inmates in less intense courses to improve their communication and interpersonal skills. This has been facilitated by incorporating professionals from different fields such as communication skills, mediation and yoga, financial management and personal discipline (Prior, 2017). Inmates are at liberty to choose what they want to learn, and this increases ownership and desire to engage and complete training.


The objectives of correctional prison system in the United States are to institute certain measures in the form of punishments that enhance the capacity of the offenders to be acceptable and productive to the society upon completion of their sentencing. For the prison system in the United States, the highest priority is on security followed by the subsequent classification of prisoners based on their intimate needs. The constitution of the United States under the eighth amendment sets limits to the level of strife that a prisoner can undergo. Prison safety is considered as an aspect of priority to prison administration because of the prevailing understanding that the criminal minds of inmates make them, susceptible to be perpetrators or victims of acts of violence within the prisons. The prison system has developed correspondence courses as methodologies founded on the objective of enhancing self-improvement.


Prior, S. (2017). U.S. Prison System. Gale Virtual Reference Library, EBSCOhost

Slater, D. (2017). Prison Break. Mother Jones, 42(4), 42-49