Prison Administration

In a comparative writing of three prison systems in the 1980s, with special emphasis on Texas, Dilulio’s main point was that good management—via the ingredients of the Texas control model, as opposed to that observed in Michigan and California—was the reason for safer, cleaner, orderly, and generally more well operated prisons.

Much has changed in the prison landscape since Dilulio’s work. For example, prisons are more legally governed, they are more crowded, and they maintain different types of prisoners than in the past. Although many causes could be pointed to, the implementation of legal requirements via Federal courts and the changing criminal demographic of prisoners (e.g., via Drug War) by way of legislative changes among states and the Federal government are leading causes. As a result, the “old ways” of doing things as highlighted in Dilulio’s book are perhaps not altogether realistic in today’s prison organization.

In light of those and other changes, and the challenges they brought to prison organizations, in the last three or four decades prison organizations have increasingly turned to prisoner management models with much more emphasis placed on sorting and splitting the prisoner population (e.g., classification) which some believe has led to the bulk management of prisoners (sometimes referred to the as the New Penology, which is a shift away from individualized treatment to one which emphasizes “batch” processing of prisoners and little individualization, among other characteristics). The New Penology is in many ways very legalized and sterile.

One hallmark of this New Penology has been a large investment in controlling certain portions of the prisoner population through almost complete and utter separation from other prisoners and staff. This type of control structure has broadly been labeled as supermaximum confinement (i.e., Supermax), but is also known by other terms such as administrative segregation, administrative separation, or sometimes erroneously, solitary confinement. The most well-known example of this separation and isolation strategy is Pelican Bay, but such control schemes are or have been found in almost all prison systems, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP).

While both approaches—the old and informal way versus the new and formal and legalized way—have their advantages and disadvantages relative to controlling the prisoner population, in this Blackboard discussion I am asking you to choose which approach you prefer. In your response, make sure to provide specific information to back up your point including the intended and unintended consequences of your chosen approach.

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