From the birth of modern civilization in 3rd millennia BC, almost every major ancient civilization used concept of prisons as a mean to detain and remove personal freedoms of incarcerated people. In those early periods of history, prisons were often used as a temporary stopgap before sentencing to death or life of slavery, but as time went on and our civilization developed, prisons started morphing into correctional facilities that started implementing the concept of rehabilitation and reform of prisoners. In addition of holding convicted or suspected criminals, prisons were often used for holding political prisoners, enemies of the state and prisoners of war.
The earliest records of prisons come from the 1st millennia BC, located on the areas of mighty ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. During those times, prisons were almost always stationed in the underground dungeons where guilty or suspected criminals spent their life either awaiting death sentence, or a command to become slaves (often working as galley slaves). Exception from that rule comes from the home of modern democracy – Greece. There, prisoners were held in the poorly isolated buildings where they could often be visited by their friends and family. Primary source of their detention were not dungeons, high walls or bars, but simple wooden blocks that were attached to their feet. Ancient Roman Empire however continued to use harsher methods. Their prisons were built almost exclusively underground, with tight and claustrophobic passageways and cells. Prisoners themselves were held either in simple cells or chained to the walls, for life or for time. As slavery was accepted norm in those days, majority of prisoners that were not sentenced to death were sold as slaves or used by the Roman government as workforce. One of the most famous uses for the slaves in Roman Empire was as “gladiators“. In addition to fighting in the arena (sometimes after lifetime of training in the special gladiator training houses, or Luduses), many slaves were tasked as a support workforce that enabled smoother run of the popular gladiator business. The most famous Gladiator battleground, the mighty ColosseumArena in Rome had a slave army of 224 slaves that worked daily as a power source of the complicated network of 24 elevators that transported gladiators and their wild animal opponents from the underground dungeons to the arena floor.
The United States government established the prison system in 1891. The Three Prison Act established funding for Leavenworth, McNeil Island and UPS Atlanta. It appears the first Federal prison was Leavenworth in Kansas. It started housing prisoners in 1906; however, prior to it opening federal prisoners were held at Fort Leavenworth military prison. Prisoners were used to build the facility.
Before the U.S. government passed the Three Prison Act, federal prisoners were held in state prisons. Today the Federal Bureau of Prisons houses inmates convicted of federal crimes. As of today the total number of inmates held in BOP operated facilities is 183,820 in 122 institutions, 27 residential reentry management offices and 11 privately managed facilities.
1891 – Federal Prison System Established
Congress passes the “Three Prisons Act,” which established the Federal Prison System (FPS). The first three prisons – USP Leavenworth,USP Atlanta, and USP McNeil Island – are operated with limited oversight by the Department of Justice.
A steadily increasing backlog of disciplinary cases for Department of Correction staff is driving dysfunction at Rikers Island, a court-appointed federal monitor claims.
Steve Martin, the monitor overseeing the reform of Rikers, reports that the backlog has resulted in a “lack of timely accountability” for uniformed staff who allegedly broke the rules.
“The overall disciplinary process is convoluted and inefficient and the system is overwhelmed,” Martin detailed in his report posted Thursday in Manhattan Federal Court.
Rikers Island island in the East River between Queens and the Bronx that is home to New York City’s main jail complex. Named after Abraham Rycken, who took possession of the island in 1664, the island was originally under 100 acres (40 ha) in size, but has since grown to more than 400 acres (160 ha). The first stages of expansion were accomplished largely by convict labor hauling in ashes for landfill. The island is politically part of the Bronx, although bridge access is from Queens. It is part of Queens Community Board 1 and uses an East Elmhurst, Queens, ZIP Code of 11370 for mail.
The island is home to one of the world’s largest correctional institutions and mental institutions, and has been described as New York’s most famous jail. The complex, operated by the New York City Department of Correction, has a budget of $860 million a year, a staff of 9,000 officers and 1,500 civilians managing 100,000 admissions per year and an average daily population of 10,000 inmates. The majority (85%) of detainees are pretrial defendants, either held on bail or remanded in custody. The rest of the population have been convicted and are serving short sentences. According to a 2015 study by the Vera Institute of Justice, it costs the city approximately $209,000 to detain one person for one year at Rikers Island.[page needed]
Rikers Island has a reputation for violence, both abuse and neglect of inmates, attracting increased media and judicial scrutiny that has resulted in numerous rulings against the New York City government, and numerous assaults by inmates on uniformed and civilian staff, resulting in often serious injuries. In May 2013, Rikers Island ranked as one of the ten worst correctional facilities in the United States, based on reporting in Mother Jones magazine. Violence on Rikers Island has been increasing in recent years. In 2015 there were 9,424 assaults, the highest number in five years.
In a 2017 report titled “Smaller, Safer, Fairer: A roadmap to closing Rikers Island”, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his intention to close the jail complex at Rikers Island within 10 years, if the city’s crime rates stay low and the population at Rikers were reduced from 10,000 to 5,000. In February 2018, a state oversight commission suggested that New York state might move to close the facility before that deadline. In October 2019, the New York City Council voted to close down the facility by 2026.
With the longevity of prisons in the US why is discipline unattainable?
Behind Osborn Correctional facility stands a laboratory
Behind the walls of the Osborn Correctional Institution stands a laboratory for one of the most aggressive experiments in criminal justice reform currently underway in the United States. Under the stewardship of Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, Connecticut has seen its prison population fall to a 20-year low, while rates of reported violent crime have plummeted.
when one woman can not find services for one inmate soon to be released from prison
Adult correctional systems supervised an estimated 6,851,000 persons at yearend 2014, about 52,200 fewer offenders than at yearend 2013.
About 1 in 36 adults (or 2.8% of adults in the United States) was under some form of correctional supervision at yearend 2014
Why is this so important today, because when one woman can not find services for one inmate soon to be released from prison, the thought of a revolving door begins to frame her thoughts as the horrid smell of fear invades not only her mind but those of the inmate’s family. Incarceration is not only to ensure the safety of #JoePublic but it divides the individuals of the families associated with the inmate, it has never been a deterrent to crime or the facilitator of “changed behavior” considering there are only 2 options; (1) go to jail; or (2) go to jail and be locked up withinthe facility for 23 hours a day.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics
Source: “Are Prisons Obsolete”, Angela Davis
Is Providing Access to Healthcare After Release from Prison Enough?
Providing health care after release is a great program, however, most mental illness requires constant review, which does not occur inside the prison walls. Alana Horowitz Satlin wrote in the Huffington Post, “A 2006 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over half of all jail and prison inmates have mental health issues; an estimated 1.25 million suffered from mental illness, over four times the number in 1998. Research suggests that people with mental illness are overrepresented in the criminal justice system by rates of two to four times the normal population. The severity of these illnesses vary, but advocates say that one factor remains steady: with proper treatment, many of these incarcerations could have been avoided.”
Connecticut’s Department of Correction’s Disclaimer reads: “The Department of Correction provides comprehensive health care to the offender population that meets a community standard of care, and includes medical, mental health, dental, addiction and ancillary services, in compliance with applicable state and federal laws and consent decrees. This spectrum of health care is carried out through a partnership the Department has established with the services of the University of Connecticut, Correctional Managed Health Care.”
NCIA’s analysis found that only three departments of correction (California, Delaware, and Louisiana) had suicide prevention policies that addressed all six critical components and that an additional five departments of correction (Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) had policies that addressed all but one critical component. Thus, only 15 percent of all departments of correction had policies that contained either all or all but one critical component of suicide prevention. In contrast, 14 departments of correction (27%) had either no suicide prevention policies or limited policies — 3 with none, and 11 with policies that addressed only one or two critical components. The majority (58%) of DOCs had policies that contained three or four of the critical components.
Medicaid Enrollment for Prisoners
Administration officials moved to improve low Medicaid enrollment for emerging prisoners, urging states to start signups before release and expanding eligibility to thousands of former inmates in halfway houses near the end of their sentences.
Health coverage for ex-inmates “is critical to our goal of reducing recidivism and promoting the public health,” said Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Advocates praised the changes but cautioned that HHS and states are still far from ensuring that most people leaving prisons and jails are put on Medicaid and get access to treatment.
“It’s highly variable. Some states and jurisdictions are having a lot of success” enrolling ex-prisoners, said Kamala Mallik-Kane, a researcher at the Urban Institute who has studied the process. “Others of them have initiatives in place that aren’t reaching the kinds of numbers that are making a dent.”
The 2010 health law made nearly all ex-prisoners eligible for Medicaid in states that chose to expand the state and federal insurance program for the poor. Many welcomed the chance to cover a group with high rates of chronic disease, mental illness and substance abuse problems.
But prisons and jails, burdened with ineffective computers, understaffing and complicated Medicaid enrollment procedures, have been slow to sign up released inmates.
Federal and state prisons let out more than 600,000 people a year. Millions more cycle through jails. But a study published in Health Affairs found prisons and jails nationwide enrolled only 112,520 emerging inmates between late 2013 up to January 2015.
Much of HHS’ guidance repeats existing policy, reminding states that those on probation or parole are eligible for Medicaid and urging states to keep prisoners’ names in the Medicaid computers while they’re locked up. (That eases re-enrollment.)
Inmates are generally ineligible for Medicaid while incarcerated. Prison and jail medical systems care for them.
HHS is “providing encouragement and a nudge” to states to improve sign-ups as well as money to upgrade enrollment computers, said Colleen Barry, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who has studied ex-inmate enrollment. “They understand that this is a technology issue.”
Making up to 96,000 halfway-house inmates eligible for Medicaid is new policy, designed to connect people with care before they’re fully released. Prisoners often move to halfway houses or home detention near the end of their terms, closely supervised but frequently allowed to shop, apply for jobs and see a doctor.
Under the new policy, “if you have a fair amount of freedom of movement” in a halfway house, “you’re not considered an inmate” for Medicaid purposes, said Sarah Somers, an attorney for the National Health Law Program, an advocacy group. “That will be very helpful for a lot of people who are trying to transition out of incarceration.”
Ex-inmates have extremely high rates of HIV and hepatitis C infection, diabetes, mental illness and substance abuse problems. They are especially vulnerable after they leave the prison medical system and before they connect with community doctors.
One study in Washington state showed that ex-inmates were a dozen times more likely to die than the general population in the first two weeks after their release.
Immediate Medicaid coverage “can mean the difference between life in the community and recidivism and even life and death,” Michael Botticelli, the White House’s director of national drug control policy, told reporters.
HHS has been urging states to enroll ex-inmates in Medicaid for years. But the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion made many more of them eligible for coverage, giving policymakers a new reason to promote sign-ups, advocates said.
So far 31 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid under the law.