#33 Security Levels in prison (RETRO)
Security Reviews in Prison
This blog is based directly from a reader who asked me this, and someone who has actually been following my blogs for quite some time and has supported me. I say with any sincerity that I can that I want to help you understand about prison if I can, but often times it means the reader has to speak and ask before I can give them answer that might help.
So keep that in mind as you read my blogs. With Halloween on us, I have some time before the trick-or-treaters start ringing the doorbell. I mean, if anybody comes ringing the doorbell at 1:14 in the afternoon, they AIN’T getting nothing!
Anyway, let’s talk about this for a moment. A person asked me about security levels and the differences between them. Now, remember I can only talk from what I went through, so don’t etch what I say in stone, every prison and every state is different.
Remember first that prison is not about throwing somebody in a cell with barred doors and that’s that. There is a lot more involved in this than most people can even realize (although most don’t care). For many inmates, there are a series of transitions while in prison. For many, they go through security level changes, depending on how they act while in prison.
Why is this important? Because when it comes to security changes, most times this means a “promotion”. I use that term very loosely because I didn’t like it. But what generally happens during a security review is when the prison (case managers usually) decide if the inmate deserves to move to a lower security level.
You’re probably still saying, “why is this important”. The answer is simple (so it seems). The lower your security level, the more privileges you may be open to. Example:
When I was in medium security at Pasquotank Correctional (I think they changed it to just close custody now) we were limited on how often we could use the phone. I think mentioned in my book, “Grades of Honor” that you were allowed to use the phone I think once a week, and you had to sign up a few days in advance to use it. But in minimum custody, you almost had unlimited access, from about 10am to about 10pm, and you didn’t have to sign up for it. More times to call home, or your wife, girlfriend or whomever.
The lower your security level was, the more freedom you had while still in prison. A lot of you may not fully understand what I am saying, but trust me, there is a big difference. So when an inmate comes up on a security (or custody) review, the idea is to see if the inmate can be promoted to a lower level.
There are many other reasons for this too, one being overcrowding. It is easier to move inmates to lower custody levels than to move them to higher ones. It kinda makes sense if you think about it. A guy doing life is not likely to see minimum custody, or a guy doing a heavy sentence. But every day there are inmates within a year of their release. There has to be a venue or pipeline to move inmates who are getting closer to release to lower security levels before they are ultimately released from prison.
There are several different levels of security, and I blogged on this before, but I really do need to learn how to index my blogs. But I’ll just touch on the levels real quick and if you guys need me to go into a little more detail, I can do that later.
Remembering that there are different terms for different states, I might say there are basically 5 different security levels: Supermax prisons, which are as they say, “for the worst of the worst” although that is not always true. Sometimes they send a person with a first offense there hoping they will “learn their lesson”, but because you put them in a mix of many very hardened individuals, it becomes sink or swim…sometimes live or die. Kinda hypocritical when you give a 20 year old a 5 year sentence but he ends up doing far more in a prison that is almost lawless. It can happen.
The second security level is a max, or Maximum security prison. Now there isn’t a whole lot of differences between this and the supermax as far as armed guards and the like, but many states that have serious gang problems have supermax prisons. This does not mean there are no gang problems in other maximum security prisons, but in comparison, there is a slight difference. For example, there is no Supermax prison in NC, but many might call Central Prison a Maximum security prison.
After this level we come lower to “Close custody”. Pasquotank was part medium, part close when I was there, I heard it is all close custody now. The difference here might be that the guards are a little relaxed than with a maximum security, and there are indeed a couple of freedoms allowed, like maybe a little more yard time.
After close custody there is medium custody, of which I am well familiar with. I actually liked medium custody better than minimum because your living quarters were more private. Inmates may have either a single cell or double cell, as opposed to the final security level, minimum security. Most inmates life in dorms, which can house anywhere from 30-60 inmates. I hated it because there is almost no privacy at all and you are forced to live with the ideas, sounds and emotions of dozens of other inmates.
I cannot say for sure if there are minimum security prisons with single or double cells, I personally have not been in any. All the minimum prisons I was in were dorms, and I hated it. But lots of guys balance it with the extra freedom they get. More yard time, more time to go to canteen, more time to use the phone, things like that. Personally I would have rather stayed in medium custody rather than move to minimum, because it was at that point that I was “promoted” that I really started getting frustrated with how prisons work. Most of my writings from prison come from the crap that happened while in minimum security. Now, does that mean everybody will have that problem, of course not. But it is worth thinking about.
Anyway, just some thoughts on it. Feel free to make a comment or email me, I’m always looking for support.
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