How Many Different Types of Prisons are There?

The words jail and prison are generic terms for a place where someone is sentenced to serve time for a crime. What many people may not be aware of is that there are a number of different kinds of prisons that operate within the United States. This is pretty much essential, since you might not necessarily want to put a person who is serving time for unpaid parking tickets in the same cell as a hardened, career criminal. The severity of the crime committed will usually dictate what sort of prison you are sent to, so let’s look at the different kinds and what crimes will land you there.

Minimum and medium security prisons are generally reserved for those that commit white collar crimes, and as such tend to be a little more relaxed than others. The “cells” are usually more like a dormitory than anything else, with bunk beds and lockers available for each prisoner. There are very few restrictions put on the movements of the inmates within such facilities, especially since these are people that are not considered to pose a risk to other inmates. Some minimum security prisons don’t even have fences on the outside, although they are still watched by armed guards.

The next level up from minimum and medium security prisons are close security. The cells here are more what you are used to seeing in TV and the movies, with each block of cells maintained by an electronic lockdown of some kind. The most basic of amenities is found in each cell, which usually consists of a sink and a toilet. Inmates in close security prisons are released from their cells to perform work duties or for free time in the yard. These types of prisons are usually double fenced, have armed towers, and have their perimeters patrolled by armed guards.

Maximum security prisons are where you will find some of the real bad guys. Most inmates are confined to their cells for 23 hours per day, with only 1 hour permitted for exercise time in the yard. It may come as a surprise to learn that maximum security prisons are not in fact the top of the heap in regards security. That award goes to supermax prisons where serial killers, violent murderers, and the most dangerous people in the country are housed. The cells here are in almost permanent lockdown, with solid doors in place as opposed to bars. Inmates are kept apart as much as possible and guards are heavily armed and on high alert at all times.

Those are the most common types of prisons, but you can also add juvenile facilities into the mix, as well as federal prisons. The federal jails are reserved for those who have broken the federal laws of the United States. These types of prisons are often filled with people awaiting trial, after which they may then be sent to one of the other types of prisons listed above.



About Mark Miclette 682 Articles
writes about inmates, jails, prisons, courts and the lives of people who live and work within the United States Criminal Justice System. His mission can be summed up in a single word; transparency.