Skip navigation
CLN bookstore

Us State Dept Guide to Understanding Evaluating Prison Systems May 2012

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
United States Department of State

A Practical Guide to
Understanding and
Evaluating Prison Systems

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Bureau of Consular Affairs

					United States Department of State
					Washington, D.C. 20520

Most U.S. citizens, fortunately, never see the inside of a prison. Some U.S. Embassy
officers, on the other hand, often visit detention facilities in the host nation to which they
are assigned. The two likeliest reasons for a visit are reporting by officers preparing the
annual human rights report and consular visits to U.S. citizens in custody abroad.
Prisons are normally not designed to be unsanitary, unsafe, or inhumane; most countries
have become parties to treaties imposing obligations regarding the humane treatment of
prisoners and specifying certain prison conditions. There are also international standards for
prisons and other detention facilities which, though not legally binding, often derive from
UN guidelines and manuals, and may be useful as a guide or check-list for ascertaining fair
and humane prison conditions and treatment of prisoners. In the Department’s experience,
most countries genuinely want to improve conditions in their prison systems, and a growing
part of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ work overseas
is devoted to helping that process.
Nevertheless, the reality is that prisons are too often overcrowded, poorly designed, and
poorly maintained. Prison staff may not be well trained or monitored. Inmates may be in
ill-health with limited access to adequate food, water, clothing, and medical care. Such
failures have significant consequences for those in detention (including U.S. citizens), and
more broadly for the functioning of the entire criminal justice system in that country.
With that in mind, three State Department Bureaus—International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement Affairs, Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Consular Affairs—
created this handbook to provide embassies with a basic understanding of international
standards for correctional systems. A sample checklist is included to give officers an idea of
what aspects formal prison assessments should consider. We recognize that it is not always
possible for officers to ask detailed questions about the facility, but they still may be able to
gather important information through careful preparation and close observation. We hope
that this handbook will prove useful to you and welcome your comments.

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State
for Democracy and Global Affairs

					United States Department of State

					Washington, D.C. 20520

Effective corrections and prisons systems have a direct relationship to a country’s
security and adherence to human rights standards. In order for the Department to develop
effective foreign policy and deliver programs, Department personnel must understand
the fundamentals of corrections and prisons systems and possess accurate information
regarding corrections and prisons systems, particularly in developing countries, countries
emerging from conflict, and totalitarian regimes.
The following manual was produced by our three Bureaus - International Narcotics and
Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), and
Consular Affairs (CA)—all of which have missions involving some aspect of prisons
and/or corrections. It was designed to provide State Department personnel with a basic
understanding of prison systems, their operations, and nomenclature. The Department’s
foreign and civil service personnel are our most important resource in evaluating a prison
or correctional system. Our evaluations must be objective, provide the best information
available, and include an unbiased assessment of the system’s strengths, weaknesses, and
vulnerabilities. These assessments must be consistent with international standards and
obligations, and hold up to intense scrutiny from our partners. We intend this manual as a
tool to guide program officers, consular officers, and human rights officers in this important
Each of you will approach your work with prisons and corrections from a different
perspective. INL’s perspective is to assist nations in developing their criminal justice
systems to strengthen the rule of law and to limit impunity for criminal groups. For INL
officers, the goal is to evaluate the system’s operational capacity, condition, and ability to
initiate and sustain meaningful reforms which will lead to consistency with international
standards, and compliance with international obligations, as well as to allow the correctional
system to contribute to government stability and legitimacy.
DRL focuses on ensuring that the human rights of prisoners are respected, particularly
because their freedoms are, by definition, limited. Prisoners are generally dependent on
the correctional facility or outside family members for basic needs such as food, clean
water, and medicine. Prisoners’ access to basic necessities should not be at the discretion
of correctional staff and subject to restriction or withdrawal. Prison monitoring, carried
out effectively, does not simply report on a situation, but encourages positive action to
prevent the deterioration of conditions or mistreatment in the future. For DRL officers
focusing on human rights issues or preparing human rights reports, the goal is to obtain
accurate information,which will to assist in the formulation of policy, and to evaluate
compliance with international standards and obligations, as well as with United States
laws. Furthermore, the act of visiting is in and of itself a preventative measure that can
result in better treatment and conditions, or help keep conditions from worsening.

CA monitors the equity of the criminal justice system and the treatment of prisoners since
American citizens on occasion are arrested, detained, prosecuted, and imprisoned. For
consular officers, the goals are to ensure that U.S. citizens being held in a foreign prison
are being treated humanely and have access to legal counsel, judicial processes, family
visits and communications, food, and medical care.
We trust that this guide will help all of you perform your duties better, with a clearer idea
of how to evaluate both what you are seeing and what you should ask. We look forward to
receiving your feedback.

William R. Brownfield
Assistant Secretary
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Michael H. Posner
Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Janice L. Jacobs
Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Consular Affairs



Table of Contents

Section	Subject	
Introduction: Welcome to Prison	



Corrections and Prison Systems Overview	



The Legal and Human Rights Framework	



Corrections 101	



Evaluating Prison and Correctional Systems	



What to do Before You Go	





	VII.	 Resources	


	VIII.	 Appendix	


I. Introduction: Welcome to Prison

Penitentiary - 2009

The story you are about to read is a true composite, drawn from prison
assessments in several countries. Unfortunately, this scenario is not unique
to one location, but far too common in societies emerging from conflict or
ruled by totalitarian regimes.
Pete was an entry level political officer at the Embassy. He was nervous.
This was the first time he had ever been inside a prison—let alone one in
a country emerging from a decades-long civil war. He was there to gather
information on prison conditions and write a report for the ambassador to
send back to Washington. Rumors of torture and abuse inside the prison
were common, and Washington wanted answers before requests for assistance were finalized and sent to Congress.
The sun beating down on his head, coupled with the heavy air, added to
his sense of foreboding. What was on the other side of the wall? The faint
breeze, which should have brought relief from the heat, instead brought the
smell of human waste, and only heightened his discomfort.
The interpreter knocked on the outer door. A set of eyes appeared from
behind a sliding peep hole and then disappeared as the hole closed. The next
sound was a key being inserted into a lock and the twisting of a handle as
the heavy steel door swung open to allow Pete, the Assistant Regional Security Officer (A/RSO), and the interpreter to enter the outer compound.
A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 1

Stepping through the door, Pete was surprised when he did not immediately see
prisoners inside the compound, but instead
saw only several buildings just outside an
inner wall. The air was putrid. Pete fought
back his gag reflex, smiled weakly, and
motioned for the group to follow the uniformed officer towards what appeared to be
the administration building. He took note of 	
the many guards sitting around in clusters, talking among themselves or cooking
over wood fires; they seemed indifferent
to the arrival of the Americans. There were
AK-47 rifles and crude wooden clubs rest-	
Prisoners making daily provisions
ing against chairs and walls where the
guards were gathered. Despite all the people and weapons, no one seemed
to be working.
Pete noticed something else: many of the guards were wearing different
military-style uniforms and only a few them were wearing shoes.
He also saw the long line of visitors waiting at a desk, where staff searched
their large sacks and baskets of food. Men, women, and children of all ages
were waiting patiently in line under the blistering sun. They appeared to be
numb to the process—well-conditioned to the routine. Very few words were
being exchanged; the visitors were quiet, even the children. Pete could feel
the tension between the guards and the visitors.
The prison director met the group in front of the administration building and
ushered them into his air-conditioned office, filled with well-worn furniture.
Once the group had taken their seats, the director offered coffee and sweets.
Pete thanked him for his time and for his willingness to discuss the challenges the prison faced in housing and caring for so many prisoners. The
prison director launched into a seemingly rehearsed litany of equipment and
funding needs. It was obvious that this was not the first foreign delegation
to come to his office looking for information.
2 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

After some cursory questions and answers,
the director informed Pete that he could
not let them into the prisoner living areas,
as he could not guarantee their safety. He
did agree, however, to give them a tour of
the support service areas, such as the classrooms and the kitchen, and to take them
around the top of the inner wall, so they
could see “inside the prison.”
Setting off down the hall, the director led
Pete and the A/RSO into the kitchen and
storage room. In prior years, the Department’s annual Human Rights Reports had
noted serious problems with malnourishStaff cooking in open, wood-fired kitchen
(Africa) - 2007
ment at the prison, and Pete wanted to
check on whether the situation had improved. Some of the staff was cooking food, but it was obvious that the two pots of soup they were working on
would not be sufficient to feed the prison’s estimated population of more
than 1,000 prisoners. In addition, the dry storage room held only two 50
pound bags of rice, some coffee, and a few spices. It was becoming obvious
to Pete that the prison could not be feeding all its inmates three times a day,
as the director claimed, unless families were supplying most of that food.
Pete wondered what happened to prisoners who had no one to bring them
Further inside the main building, Pete was shown a dingy classroom and
a clinic with very few medical supplies. The “doctor” was sitting behind a
desk, wearing a white lab coat over soiled clothing; he gave no indication of
possessing medical knowledge. Pete suspected that he was a prisoner.
The director led them out of the clinic, down a dark corridor with wires
hanging from destroyed sockets, up a set of flimsy wooden stairs, through a
locked door, and onto the perimeter wall. Below the Americans was a swirling mass of prisoners, dressed in civilian clothes and apparently engaged
in various activities, including card-playing and smoking. The faint odor
of marijuana was noticeable amid the pungent reek of unwashed prisoners,
A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 3

garbage, and human waste. Hacking coughs could be heard echoing above
the drone of conversation. The scene closely matched a description he had
received before the visit from the head of a local non-profit organization
that worked with prisoners and their families. Pete noticed that boys were
mingling with the adults, contradicting the prison director’s statement that
juvenile offenders were kept separate from the adult inmates. Looking into
cell windows, Pete noticed prisoners lying in hammocks strung from the
window bars. They were suspended above masses of prisoners packed onto
the cell floors. The A/RSO whispered to Pete that the prisoners with hammocks were probably leaders or had paid handsomely for ‘luxury’ accommodations.
Walking further along the wall, Pete looked down into the women’s compound. Male guards were standing at the doors and the women, some with
small children or infants, were washing clothes or sheltering in the small
areas of shade. Their compound looked cleaner, and there were fewer
inmates. It was apparent that there were juvenile offenders—mere girls—
mixed in with the adult women prisoners.
Turning the final corner, Pete saw the visitors entering into a courtyard
where a large number of prisoners waited. Children were dashing about and
families had broken off to separate areas to visit and eat. The free flow of
movement in and out of the compound suggested to Pete that the guards did
not keep track of who was entering and who was leaving. This was an area
that Pete suspected was a major pipeline for contraband and weapons.
Looking down at the roof of the administration building, Pete saw exposed
wires and sprouting vegetation. The prison walls were dingy, molding, and
crumbling in several places. On the backside of the inner wall, Pete could
just see tall reeds and the festering black pool of sewage—the source of the
prison’s pervasive stench.
The tour was over. It was cursory at best, but Pete had been able to see
more than he anticipated. He was ready to continue his research so he could
draft his report.

4 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

II. Overview of Corrections and Prisons Systems

There are three main pillars to any functioning criminal justice system:
	Police,

Courts (including prosecutors and defenders), and

	Corrections

Correctional systems and prison systems are not the same thing, and jails
are not prisons: prison systems focus on containment and control of the
prisoners; corrections systems not only contain and control the prisoners,
but also provide them with opportunities for change and successful re-entry
into society by offering education and vocational programs, drug treatment,
and life-skills training. Jails are primarily used for prisoners being detained
in pre-trial status (although they are commonly used to hold misdemeanant
prisoners or prisoners serving sentences less than two years) and, because
the profiles on the offenders are incomplete, these operations are focused on
containment and prisoner movement to and from court.
Corrections systems reflect a complex approach to incarceration and contribute to public safety. Many systems include prisons or penitentiaries,
correctional centers, probation and parole operations, and diversion programs. Penitentiaries are usually high security, designed to hold dangerous
offenders or those serving extremely long sentences; correctional centers
focus not only on security, but rely on programs to help manage the offenders; probation and parole are focused on community supervision through
halfway houses, electronic monitoring, home visits, et cetera; and diversion
programs include approaches such as drug and alcohol treatment in lieu of
The goal of a correctional system is to provide various degrees of confinement in a safe (for the offender and staff), secure, humane, and transparent
manner, and to provide programs that give offenders the opportunity to
reform and successfully reintegrate into society.
A correctional system should support the rule of law, protect and advance
human rights, and contribute to the stability and security of the country.

6 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

The Corrections World
Throughout the world, there are approximately nine million people under
some form of incarceration or supervision, with one-quarter of them in the
United States. The circumstances of prisoners and the nature of prison facilities are as varied as the cultures and the resources available to each nation.
However, no matter where they are being held, prisoners are a vulnerable
population, and they rely upon the government to ensure provision of their
needs and welfare. Therefore, it is incumbent upon a government to adhere
to standards and obligations that create environments that are safe, secure,
humane, and transparent.
While adult males constitute, and are likely to continue to constitute, the
largest group of prisoners, there are several other important groups, including women, juveniles, and those with mental and physical disabilities.
These three groups are sometimes referred to as “vulnerable populations”
because they are particularly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, or neglect
within the prisons.
Crimes committed by individuals with mental disabilities are sometimes
driven by the illness itself, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. In some countries, incarceration for such cases takes place in
mental health hospitals, private homes, or other community-based facilities,
and any forced commitment is done through a civil, rather than criminal,
process. However, in a growing number of countries and for a variety of
reasons, forced commitment and incarceration of these individuals takes
place within the criminal justice system. This ‘criminalization’ of people
with mental disabilities is a worldwide phenomenon; understanding the systems at work in a given country can be especially challenging for political
or consular officers charged with reporting on, or visiting, these institutions.
The fastest growing segment of the world’s prisoner population is
female. These offenders have unique needs, particularly when it comes to
family considerations (including care of children), causes for criminality,
health care (including childbirth), and psychology.

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 7

Juveniles represent another vulnerable population. Some of the issues that
must be addressed are the minimum age of criminal responsibility, age of
adulthood, education, mental, and physical development, as well as whether
juvenile offenders are kept segregated from adult offenders.

International Corrections at a Glance
The diversity among international corrections and prisons systems is astounding. The availability of human and financial resources, existence of
laws, cultural values, crime rates and types, and other factors all influence
the criminal justice equation. In many nations, the corrections system or
prison system is a national agency. However, sometimes responsibility for
the prison system is assigned to the provinces or states, while other systems
rely upon informal mechanisms. Sometimes it is law-enforcement focused,
sometimes it is social-reformation focused, but often it fulfills a dual role.
In some developing countries, the prisons and jails are operated by the police (through the Ministry of Interior). However, this is not a recommended
practice. The preferred structure is to have the corrections system
independent of the police, because it provides a counterbalance to police
misconduct, arbitrary arrest, and detention.
In many countries the corrections system is part of the Ministry of Justice or
the Ministry of Social Affairs.

U.S. Corrections at a Glance
Corrections in the United States are a conglomeration of various local,
county, state, tribal, and federal agencies. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) is responsible for incarcerating persons charged and convicted
under federal law (see: Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code).
There is no national prison service in the United States. A national
prison system is one charged with operating all the prisons in a country,
while a federal prison system is responsible for operating prisons holding
criminals charged or convicted of federal crimes.
In early 2011, there were approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated in
the United States. Of these, just over 210,000 were serving in FBOP facili8 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems







.....- • -





- "'



.. ~\ \

U.S. prison cell block - 2010

ties. The remaining 90 percent were incarcerated in non-federal systems.
Each U.S. state has its own correctional system. A few state systems operate
jails, prisons, probation, and parole. Most state systems, however, are not
combined operations and only manage prisons. Jails in the United States are
usually operated by municipal and county governments, and most probation
departments are attached to the courts. Parole operations are often independent and report to a parole board or commission. In 2010, nationwide
expenditures for U.S. corrections systems were approximately $52 billion.
With very few exceptions, all personnel working in U.S. corrections have
attended certified training academies of varying lengths and curricula. Correctional officers make up the bulk of these personnel. However, the sector
also employs professionals in probation and parole, facilities, administration, medical services, education and vocational training, mental health,
social services, procurement, employee training, transportation, information
technology, and human resources. Depending on the system and the duties
assigned, training programs can last from just a few weeks to more than
three months.
While correctional systems in the United States often struggle with issues of
overcrowding, insufficient human and financial resources, and incidents of
violence and other abuse, there are oversight and enforcement mechanisms
in the United States, including the Department of Justice, which help ensure
that U.S. correctional systems are operated in conformity with the U. S.
Constitution, statutes, and regulations.

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 9

III. The Legal and Human Rights Framework

U.S. Law & Assistance
The State Department’s work in the corrections sector overseas is primarily governed by The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as amended), which
limits the accounts and circumstances under which assistance funds may
be used to provide corrections assistance. Although Section 660 of the
Act contains a general prohibition on providing assistance to police forces
and prisons, it contains some exceptions. For example, the Act provides
“notwithstanding” authorities to INL, which gives the Bureau flexibility
in delivering corrections assistance through its various country programs.
Although various restrictions on assistance may apply to a country or government, particularly relevant to corrections work is the requirement that
no assistance may be provided to units or individuals if the Department has
credible evidence that the unit or individual has committed gross violations
of human rights. This is a requirement under the Leahy Amendment.

Human Rights
Human rights violations can occur in any correctional system and at any
point during incarceration. Correctional systems must be structured and
managed in such a way that they respect the rights of the prisoner, the staff,
and the public.
Officers reporting on prison conditions should bear in mind that in addition to inhumane conditions, human rights violations may be the result of
discriminatory treatment towards vulnerable populations, including but not
limited to members of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, women, children, LGBT persons, and the disabled.
The U.S. Congress has been particularly interested in the conditions and
treatment of prisoners, and has included language requiring increased
attention on this issue in the Department of State’s annual appropriation
legislation since 2009, including increased reporting requirements. Members of Congress have expressed particular interest in efforts that result in
actual improvement in conditions for prisoners. Every year, the section on
criminal, justice, systems in the State Department’s Country Reports on
A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 11

Human Rights is one of the report’s largest; its drafting requires significant dialogue
between posts and DRL.

Unsanitary cell block toilets
(West Africa) - 2007

Conditions within a country’s prisons are
also of concern to consular officers. The
conditions in which U.S. citizens are incarcerated or detained are important aspects
of our embassies’ interactions with foreign
governments, as well as with the incarcerated citizen’s family. There is no higher
priority for the Department of State than the
protection of U.S. citizens abroad, including
incarcerated U.S. citizens.1

International Law and Practice
International standards are not legally binding rules or measures, but
have been widely accepted internationally; rules or measures adopted by
the United Nations General Assembly are a good example. One of the first
documents setting forth international standards related to corrections is
the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs).
These Rules were adopted at the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1955. Subsequent UN
Congresses have adopted additional standards to complement the Minimum
Rules, such as the Beijing Rules (1985), the Riyadh Guidelines (1990),
and the Bangkok Rules (2010). These Rules make up some of the standards upon which INL assesses a country’s correctional system. They are
not legally binding.
International obligations are legally binding requirements that a country
has taken on by becoming a party to a treaty or through customary international law. For example, the United Nations currently has 16 potentially relevant treaties (sometimes also called conventions - see links next page). Many
Consular officers should refer to 7 FAM 400 for guidance on required timeliness and frequency of prison visits to arrested and incarcerated U.S. citizens.

12 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

conventions are relevant to the criminal justice system, but two are currently garnering particular attention: the UN Convention against Corruption
and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Each is
binding on countries that become a party to the document. These documents
set the requirements to which we hold accountable the countries that are
parties to them.
The following two links, repeated in the Annex at the end of this
Practical Guide, may be useful in providing information on pertinent
human rights instruments and law enforcement treaties.
1) 	International Human Rights Instruments

(with particular reference to those listed under the heading “Human
Rights in the Administration of Justice: Protection of Persons Subjected
to Detention or Imprisonment”)

2) 	Crime-related Conventions

Global Standards
The United Nations has worked to create standards for the world community to follow. However, it is difficult to create a set of requirements where
“one size fits all;” therefore, the bulk of the UN rules dealing with prisons
are non-binding standards, rather than obligations.
Numerous international conventions address human rights, and numerous
rules set standards regarding the treatment of prisoners specifically. These
human rights obligations and standards provide baseline guidance for the
treatment of prisoners and detainees. However, no universal international
obligations exist to govern the operation of all corrections systems, which
are left up to each sovereign nation in accordance with its international
The United Nations has a handbook on International Human Rights Standards for Prison Officials. The guide provides a brief overview of relevant

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 13

human rights standards specifically applicable to the rights of prisoners. It
was designed as one part of four guides on training for prison officials on
human rights, and can be obtained online from several sources.
The most important set of guidelines are the Standard Minimum Rules
for the Treatment of Prisoners (UN 1955).

UN Standard Minimum Rules for the
Treatment of Prisoners
The Rules referenced here, and the supporting additional Rules mentioned
above, can be found on-line at
Here are some important rules to note:
Every location should have a registry of who is being held,
including name, gender, legal status, date admitted,
date released, and other pertinent information.

Every person being held must have a commitment order
signed by an authority of competent jurisdiction.

There should be adequate:
	 Natural and artificial light;
		 Food and potable water; and
		 Medical care

There should be access to:
		 Legal aid;
		 Visits; and

Staff should be trained in their duties.
		 Prisoners should be separated according to:
		 Legal status;
		 Gender; and

Overcrowded cell block (Middle East) – 2005

14 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 15

IV. Corrections 101

Human Resources
Corrections is a people business. Equipment such as metal detectors, radios,
and cameras are tools used by corrections professionals. They are not a substitute for well-trained and motivated staff. In functional systems, 60 to 80
percent of every department’s budget is allocated to personnel. This is the
cost of employing a professional work force.
Many times, officials battling the challenges of improving prison security
and conditions request assistance in identifying and purchasing technology.
While there is nothing wrong with technology, it should be emphasized that
no amount of technology will fix a dysfunctional system if there is a lack
of well-trained, properly compensated, and motivated staff.

Penitentiary Officer Academy after Reforms
(Latin America) - 2009

Many correctional systems use different terms for the same function, activity, or task. Following is a list of some common terms you may encounter in

	 Case manager – a person who manages an inmate’s or offender’s file.
 	Correctional officer or Custodial Agent – a person who is responsible for the direct supervision of prisoners. The term “guard” should
not be used.
A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 17



– a person who provides specialized counseling to an of-

head or chief – leader of a function or section.
Secretary, Commissioner – head of a department or agency.
 	Probation and/or Parole officer – an officer assigned to a department,
an agency, the court, or a parole board.
 	Shift commander – the leader of a shift of correctional officers.
 	Warden, Superintendent, Director – head of an institution.


Operations and Processes
 	Classification – an objective system designed to categorize prisoners
according to their criminal risk and program needs.
 	Custody – a score assigned to a prisoner through classification that
determines the type and intensity of supervision assigned to a prisoner.
The custody of prisoner can change depending on his/her institutional
behavior, such as smuggling or fighting or active participation in programs.
 	Count – the process of counting prisoners.
 	CS/CN – a synthetic powder dispersed in a canister—often called tear
gas— a less-than-lethal manufactured agent commonly used for crowd
 	CTU – central transportation unit.
 	Detainee – a term commonly used to describe a person held in pre-trial
or non-convicted status.
 	Direct Supervision – a management method whereby correctional
staff is in constant contact and interaction with the prisoners.
 	ERT, CERT, SORT – emergency response team, critical emergency
response team, special operations response team: usually a unit for
disturbance control, often referred to as riot control.
 	Inmate – a term commonly used to describe a person incarcerated following conviction in a court of law.
 	Indirect Supervision – a management method whereby correctional
staff does not mix with the prisoners, but remains outside the living,
working, and recreational areas.
 	OC – oleoresin capsicum, also known as pepper spray – a less-thanlethal organic agent used to temporarily incapacitate aggressors.

18 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems


– a term used interchangeably with prisoner, but most commonly used to refer to a person being supervised in the community
under probation and/or parole.
 	Post – term used to define a location staffed by a correctional officer.
 	Post order – a list of duties for an officer to carry out at that location.
 	PR-24 or ASP – a baton.
 	Prisoner – a term used to describe a person held in either pre-trial or
convicted status.
 	PTO – prisoner transport officer – an officer specially trained to transport prisoners.
 	Rover – an officer assigned to a mobile “roving” post.
 	Unit management – a system where prisoners are managed by a team
of corrections professionals according to their classification.
 	Use of Force – a scale used to determine the level of force required to
control or manage a situation. Usually on a continuum of increasing
control from presence and verbal commands to the use of lethal systems, such as firearms.

Organizational Structures
  	 Administration
  	 Executive Management
 	 Internal Affairs
 	 Public and Intergovernmental Relations
 	 Budget and Finance
 	 Human Resources
 	 Procurement
 	 Facilities Maintenance
 	 Planning
 	 Prisoner Classification and Records
 	 Prisoner Transportation
 	 Prisoner Programs
 	 Medical Services
 	 Institutions
 	 Correctional Centers
 	 Penitentiaries
A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 19



 	 Academy
 	 Field Training
Probation and/or Parole

(sometimes known as Community Corrections)







Community Residential Centers
Electronic Monitoring

Prisoner Classification and Facilities Designations
A vital component of any correctional system is its method of classifying
prisoners according to risk and programmatic needs. There are many different variations for classification levels and facility security designations.
General categories are:
 Prisoners
	 	 Community – a prisoner housed in a location such as a 	
	 half-way house, treatment center, participating in work 	
	 release, and/or electronic monitoring;
	  	 Minimum – a prisoner who requires minimal supervision 	
	 and presents a low risk of violence or escape—often a
		 misdemeanant or a prisoner nearing the end of his/her
Medium – a prisoner who presents a moderate risk of
		 violence or escape, and who is serving a sentence of
		 some length – perhaps 2–10 years -- but who has
		 demonstrated responsible behavior while incarcerated;
Close – a prisoner who presents a somewhat higher risk of 	
	 violence or escape and who is serving a longer
		 sentence—often over 10 years, including life—or who
	 has inconsistent institutional behavior;
	 	 Maximum – a prisoner who, through poor institutional 	
	 conduct, presents an on-going threat to the safety and
		 security of staff and other prisoners, and who requires
		 extremely limited access to programs and movement.

20 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

 Facility






Security Levels
Community Residential Centers – locations in the community
where there is official supervision, but the prisoner is allowed to
work and program in the community;
Camps/Minimum Security – centers with no fences and open
movement around the compound;
Minimum Security – usually a facility with a single fence and
dormitory-style housing or light (e.g. wood frame) construction;
Medium Security – usually facility with a double-fenced perimeter, higher levels of staffing, and double-occupancy cells;
Maximum Security – a facility with multiple perimeters and
controlled gates with single or two-person cells, armed towers,
and a larger number of staff in relation to the number of prisoners;
Administrative Segregation – this is often referred to as “super
max.” This is a highly restrictive environment where prisoners
who present serious risks to the safety and security of staff and
prisoners are housed in single cells, and are restrained during
movements outside their cells.

Facilities in post-conflict or developing countries are frequently substandard, or are converted buildings such as schools and hospitals. In these
environments, rarely are prisoners classified or staff trained to manage prisoners according to their risk. These conditions present serious challenges to
the safety and security of other prisoners, the staff, and the public. At times,
officials will try to mitigate these risks by limiting inmate movement, access
to programs, and other activities, which turns the prison into little more than
a warehouse for criminals.

Foundations for good correctional systems include:
 	 Efficient law enforcement and court processes;
 	 Thorough intake and classification processes;
 	 Focused and frequent training;
 	 Adequate resourcing;
 	 Competent management; and
 	 Accountability for staff and prisoners.
A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 21

Corrections is a process: an individual is arrested, remanded into detention,
tried, and, if convicted, committed to a correctional system. Once committed to the corrections department, the offender is evaluated for his or her
risks and programmatic needs, and then transferred to an institution that best
fulfills the security and programming requirements for that offender. After
transfer, it is contingent upon the prisoner to make the best use of his/her time
of incarceration, so that s/he may increase the chances for successful re-entry
to society. It is contingent upon the system to afford the prisoner with opportunities to improve his/her condition.
If the police and/or the courts are not functioning properly, then the correctional system is at risk for overcrowding. Severe overcrowding creates
environments that are unsafe for staff and prisoner, cause physical plants to
deteriorate and sanitation systems to collapse, lower staff morale, generate
public resentment about the equity of the government’s criminal justice system, and can contribute to larger societal instability.
Large numbers of pre-trial prisoners inhibit a correctional system’s ability
to manage arrestees according to risk, gender, age, and need. Pre-trial status
requires that these prisoners be kept in reasonable proximity to the courts
with jurisdiction. Because the prisoner is not yet convicted or acquitted, it
is not possible to evaluate accurately his/her risk of escape. This requires
the system to treat all prisoners as a high risk for escape, which requires
maximum-security facilities and the commitment of significant financial and
human resources.
Conditions within pre-trial facilities in many countries are frequently worse
than in the prisons, because these structures were not designed for long-term
incarceration or large numbers of prisoners. Pre-trial facilities, including
police station holding cells, usually have limited spaces for recreation, programs, visitation, or sanitation.
A large number of pre-trial prisoners as a percentage of all inmates in
a system and long periods in pre-trial status is indicative of dysfunction
within the entire criminal justice system.

Standards and Best Practices
The corrections industry references many standards and makes frequent use
of the term “best practices;” however, what defines best practices remains
subject to interpretation. Common sense is usually the best standard to use
when evaluating and/or observing a system or a facility.
This handbook includes a number of reference documents you can use in
the Resources section. However, by becoming familiar with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, you should
be able to understand the basics of prison or correctional center operational
Look for the following:









22 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

There should be a registry log of all prisoners, including date of
admission, legal status, sentence date, sentence length (if any), and date 	
of discharge (if any).
 	 It is not unusual in some countries for prisoners to be held far 	
	 beyond the amount of time they would have served if
	 convicted, simply due to poor record-keeping.
There should be a commitment order of some type from a court.
The prisoners should be separated at a minimum by gender, age,
and legal status.
The prisoners should be informed of the rules of the facility.
The prisoners should have access to legal and family visits, unless
there is a legitimate and documented reason for a restriction.
The prisoners should have access to recreation for no less than
one hour per day.
There should be adequate natural light and ventilation in the
housing areas.
The prisoners should have adequate space for sleeping,
movement, and some personal property.
The prisoners should be clothed in clean and serviceable attire.
The prisoners should have access to food of adequate nutritional
value and quantity.
A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 23





The prisoners should be afforded medical services at least equal
to those available in the surrounding community(ies).2
The staff should be supervising the prisoners either directly
or indirectly.
Staff should have been trained in their duties according to a set
curriculum and national standard.
The facility should be clean.
No prisoners should be shackled as a means of punishment
Prisoners should be remunerated for any work.

Dilapidated Cell Block Sink (Middle East) - 2005


Department guidance on preparing the Annual Report on human rights practices requires reporting on “inadequate medical care” and does not refer to community

24 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

V. Evaluating a Prison or Correctional System:
INL, Political and CA Officers


Regardless of your job, evaluation of a prison or correctional system should
be objective and targeted at providing the best information available, including an unbiased assessment of the system’s strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities, as well as consistency with international standards and obligations.
When the purpose of your efforts is related to human rights problems and
U.S. diplomatic approaches, the goal is to obtain accurate information to assist in the formation of policy and ensure compliance with United States laws.
Further, the act of visiting is by itself a preventative measure that can result in
better treatment and conditions, or help keep conditions from deteriorating.
To be credible and effective, an evaluation would ideally include more than
a review of media and non-governmental organization human rights reports.3
For Consular Affairs officers, the goal is to ensure that U.S. citizens held in a
foreign prison are being treated humanely, and have access to legal counsel
and judicial processes, family visits and communications, food, and medical


The more information you can gather, the better your report will be. A thorough evaluation ideally should include:
 Interviews

 	 Correctional systems managers, department heads, and prison
	 staff and correctional officers;
 	 Prisoners;
 	 Civil society / advocacy groups or independent observers such as 	
	 International Committee of the Red Cross, judges or court officials;
 	 Other law enforcement agency personnel;
 	 Other donors (if applicable);
 	 Medical staff;
 	 Family/visitors; and
 	 Religious organizations serving prison populations.

 Site

For INL officers, the goal is to evaluate the system’s operational capacities,
conditions, and its ability to initiate and sustain meaningful reforms. These in
turn will lead to compliance with international obligations, consistency with
international standards, and will allow the correctional system to contribute
to government stability, legitimacy, and respect for the rule of law.


visits to:


and/or police lock-ups;
 	 Mental health units (if applicable);
 	 Detention centers;
 	 Juvenile centers;
 	 Program centers; and
 	 Training academies.


 Collection

and analysis of:
 	 Prisoner demographics;
 	 Staff demographics;
	 Key indicators, such as escapes, riots, use of force,
	 infection rates, grievances, et cetera;
 	 Training curricula;
 	 Strategic plans; and
 	 Independent assessments (by groups such as UNODC or others).

Officers preparing human rights reports should seek out information related to the numbers of
persons with mental disabilities being held, whether the treatment available is adequate to treat the
disability, and if the people with mental disabilities are there for committing crimes or because there
were no other options for their care. In addition to visiting prison and detention facilities, mental
health facilities should be visited as well. The same guidelines noted previously for assessment
can be applied. However, it should be remembered that these facilities are not criminal settings,
so the only restrictions on freedom should be predicated on securing the safety of self and others.
Staff training may differ, and classifications will be more dependent on health needs than security
needs, but common sense still applies. Conditions should, at a minimum, meet the same general
guidelines as for prison and detention facilities.

26 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems


A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 27

Department Guidance on Human Rights Reporting

Rules of Thumb

Look for, and report on, serious threats to life or health, such as food shortages, inadequate sanitation, ventilation, temperature, lighting, medical care,
and instances of corrections officers or other prisoners abusing inmates physically or sexually. Also note the use of living or executed prisoners as sources
of organs for transplant. Describe the prevalence of death in prison or pretrial
detention centers, whether deliberate or unintended. If there were no problems, use the following language: “Prison and detention center conditions
generally met international standards, and the government permitted visits
by independent human rights observers.”

You might not have the subject matter expertise necessary to produce a
thorough scientific evaluation of a system; however, it is possible to provide
a reasonably objective evaluation without an expert’s experience. Here are
some rules of thumb you can follow:

Provide the approximate total number of prisoners and detainees, including
the number of juveniles and female prisoners, and if available, the number
of prisoners the facility was designed to hold. Report if men and women,
juveniles and adults, and/or pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were
housed together. Take into account but do not cite explicitly, the International Center for Prison Studies (
Note if political (or “security”) prisoners faced significantly different conditions from those of the general population.
Report whether prisoners and detainees had access to visitors, were permitted religious observance, could submit complaints to judicial authorities
without censorship, and whether authorities investigated credible allegations
of inhumane conditions.
Report whether the government permitted monitoring in accordance with its
standard modalities by independent non-governmental observers (e.g. human rights groups, the media, International Committee for the Red Cross, as
well as international bodies such as the Council of Europe’s Committee for
the Prevention of Torture).
To the extent they are known, report problems in prisons and similar institutions operated by local warlords, paramilitary groups, or rebel forces.
Reports should answer the following questions:
Do prisoners have access to potable water?
 	Is there a prison ombudsmen?
 	What steps have been taken to improve record keeping?
	 Do alternatives to sentencing for non-violent offenders exist?
 	Are conditions for female prisoners worse than those for males? and
 What steps has the government taken to improve prison conditions?

28 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

Does the department budget seem sufficient for
	 the tasks at hand?
What is the department’s organizational structure? Does it appear
	 to support efficient and appropriate management of the system?
Is there independent monitoring of the prisons?
Is there a formal process for prisoners to raise concerns or address 	
	 abuse? Are concerns investigated and acted upon?
Are you able to visit with the prisoners without staff present? Do 	
	 the prisoners seem uneasy talking with you?
Are the prisoners made aware of their rights and obligations upon 	
	 entry, either in writing or verbally?
Do the prisoners have adequate space to sleep and keep a few
	 personal items? Do they have mattresses, soap, towels, et cetera?
Is there adequate light for reading during the day or at night?
Do there appear to be enough showers, toilets, and sinks for the 	
	 number of prisoners?
Is the temperature inside the structure livable?
Was the structure purpose-built as a prison, or it is an adaptation?
What is the structure’s overall condition?
Does the prison have a logbook/registry with the information
	 required for each prisoner?
Are women separated from men? Are juveniles separated
	 from adults?

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 29




Are the prisoners convicted or not convicted? Do the
prisoners know the charges against them? How long has the
prisoner been incarcerated, and what was the time between
arrest and conviction?
What constitutes the majority of the crimes committed by
the prisoners?




Is staff trained in an academy?
Is staff pay sufficient to meet basic living needs?
Is staff literate?
How many staff members are on the official roster? Does it appear 	
that this number is accurate, or are there “ghost employees” (e.g. 	
employees on paper but not in existence)?
Does the staff appear and act professionally, or is there an air of 	
indifference or intimidation or fear of the prisoners?

Health and Sanitation
Is the air stale or sour, indicating poor sanitation?
Do the prisoners look healthy, or are there signs or reports of
	 diseases such as coughing, open sores, or sickly complexions?
Is there a doctor or other medical personnel at the facility?
Does the volume of food being served appear to be sufficient
	 to feed all the prisoners?
Does it appear that special arrangements were made for your visit, 	
	 such as new prisoner uniforms, unusually healthy food, etc.?

Are the prisoners out of their cells and engaging in recreation
	 or visiting?
Is there an armory with sufficient controls and barriers to keep
	 it secure?
Were you granted (escorted) access to all areas of the prison?
	 If not, why not?
What is the disciplinary procedure for rule infractions by
	 prisoners? What is the discipline system like? Are offenses
	 and penalties transparent?
Do the prisoners seem to be divided into groups or gangs?
Are there indicators of gang activity such as gang-related graffiti?
Are there indications of drug use among the prisoners?
Do the staff and prisoners interact during the day?
Is the staff armed?
Is the staff searching prisoners, living areas, and visitors?

Are the prisoners able to improve their condition through education 	
	 and vocational training?
Are prisoners working or engaged in meaningful activities or are 	
	 they idle in the cells or in open areas?

30 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 31

VI. What to Do Before You Go—Being Prepared
Now that you’ve read through this guide and researched other materials,
such as the Department’s Annual Country Reports for the last several years,
you are ready to apply what you’ve learned to accomplish this important assignment. But this is no ordinary mission. You are going to visit an unusual
place: you are heading to a prison.
When possible prior to your visit, you should speak with knowledgeable
and credible people and organizations that are independent of the prison
The International Committee of the Red Cross has extensive experience in
prison monitoring. However, ICRC reports are confidential and provided
solely to host government authorities: ICRC officials are scrupulous on this
issue. Nevertheless, speaking in general terms with ICRC officials can be
The most important part of getting ready is to be mentally prepared
for what you are about to encounter. You should be well-rested, alert, and
attuned to verbal and non-verbal communications. What you may see might
shock you or make you feel uncomfortable. Getting prepared before you go
is a necessity: you will need to rely on your senses – especially your common sense.
Consular officers are encouraged to visit prisons early in their tours, even
if no U.S. citizens are incarcerated, and then maintain contacts with prison
officials and administrators for the duration of their tour. These visits and
contacts are valuable links to the host nation, and can be passed along to
future consular officers when they arrive in country, or shared with INL and
DRL officers if they are tasked with evaluating the host nation prisons and

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 33

Safety First
 	 Prisons can be dangerous: do not take security lightly.
 	 Prisons are environments where personal privacy is scarce.
 	 Trust your instincts.
 	 Give your agenda and contact information to the RSO and 	
	 others in the office. Include the precise location of the prison,
	 contact numbers for the director or warden, and the expected
	 duration of visit.
	 Be respectful and polite.
	 Do not take unnecessary risks: if conditions do not feel or look 	
	 safe then end the visit, thank your hosts, and depart for a safe area.
Clothing and Equipment
 	 Dress conservatively and professionally; avoid insignia
	 and flag pins.
 	 Avoid wearing too much or expensive jewelry – none is better.
 	 Wear comfortable walking shoes (no heels, flip flops, or sneakers).
Bring head cover (caps, scarves, etc.).
 	 Leave your cell phone and/or BlackBerry in the car or in
	 the director’s office—do not take it around the prisoners.
 	 Do not carry large amounts of cash.
 	 Do not carry cigarettes, lighters or pocket knives.
	 Take a camera only if it is allowed by the authorities.
 	 Take business cards, but do not give them to prisoners.
Conduct – be a good visitor:
 	 Stay with the group: wandering frustrates staff and puts you at risk.
 	 Do not take pictures of the prison or prisoners without permission.
 	 Do not ask prisoners about their crimes in front of staff
	 or other prisoners.
 	 Ask permission to enter a cell or dormitory.
 	 Be polite, acknowledge the prisoners and staff, and ask permission 	
	 to move around the living area.
 	 Avoid commentaries about conditions during the visit.
 	 Ask if any colors or dress codes are preferred or prohibited.
34 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems






Expect to be searched and do not be offended if you are denied
access without a search. Searches, which might be thorough,
should be professional and appropriate.
Do not offer to do anything for a prisoner (unless you are visiting a 	
U.S. citizen prisoner, or intend to alert a foreign consul to
the detention of one of his/her nationals).
Do not give prisoners money, food, or other items.
If you are entering a living area of the opposite sex, announce
your presence before you enter.
If the visit ends unexpectedly, do not argue with the staff.
Obey their orders and exit the facility calmly and quickly.

Reading the Environment:
 	 Is the staff friendly, open, and receptive to your visit?
 	 Is the staff uneasy and/or indifferent to your visit?
 	 Does the staff appear comfortable or uncomfortable entering the 	
	 prisoner living areas?
 	 Do the prisoners seem at ease with staff present, or do they seem 	
	 agitated by the presence of staff?
 	 Do the prisoners look down, avoid eye contact, or take a submissive 	
	 pose in the presence of staff?
 	 Do the prisoners glare at staff or stare at you (with more than idle 	
	 curiosity), and do you feel intimidated?
 	 Are the prisoners cooking in their cells/dorms?
 	 Are the prisoners working, or are they idle?
 	 Are there large numbers of staff milling about aimlessly or
	 not paying attention to their duties?
 	 Do the prisoners have knives, tools, or other instruments that might 	
	 be used for escape or weapons?
 	 Do the prisoners appear to be divided into distinct groups and
	 identified by age, ethnicity, tattoos, et cetera?

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 35

VII. Resources


INL Areas of Subject Matter Expertise

(For corrections related questions, contact


Case Management
Community Corrections
Emergency Response
Facility Design
Industrial Operations
Industries & Programs
International Human Rights Standards
Investigation & Intelligence Operations
Jail Administration
Juvenile Justice & Vulnerable Populations
New Prison Activation/Start-up
Prisoner Classification
Probation & Parole
Program Evaluation
Prison Operations
Security Operations and Auditing
Special Security Operations
Vulnerability Assessments

 DRL Areas of Subject Matter Expertise
International Human Rights Standards
	 International Agencies/Bodies involved in Human Rights, 	
		 including prisons
Civil Society Organizations working on Human Rights
Department Human Rights Reporting Procedures
		 and Standards
Treatment of vulnerable communities and human rights 	
		 conditions in specific countries
The following links may be useful in providing information 		
on pertinent human rights instruments and law enforcement 		
	 International Human Rights Instruments (with particular 		
	 reference to those listed under the heading,“Human Rights in 	
	 the Administration of Justice: Protection of Persons Subjected 	
	 to Detention or Imprisonment”)
	 Crime-related Conventions

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 37

 	 Internet

– additional links

VIII. Appendix

(These are not U.S. government publications, and may contain
statements that do not reflect USG views.)

King’s College of London:
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC);


38 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

Sample evaluation form


Facility Condition
1.	Date built

Facility	 ___________________________Date	
Conducted by	 ________________________________________
1.	Warden’s name and
contact info
2.	Total staff

3.	Uniformed
4.	Non-uniformed
5.	Human rights training
offered or completed

Inmate Population
1.	Adult Male – Convicted /
2.	Adult Female – C/PT
3.	Juvenile Male – C/PT
4.	Juvenile Fem – C/PT

Information and Observations
Warden Smith: Warden, 11 years corrections, worked in X, Y, and Z, with
last 4 years at this facility: Assistant
Warden Captain Jones (Asst. Warden)
42 (40 male; 2 female) Note: Ministry
of Interior assigns personnel to corrections positions. Most law enforcement
do not want an assignment to corrections because: fewer benefits, work
more hours for same pay, and equipment is not as good.
30 (29 male; 1 female)
12 (Note: the officers plus administrative support should equal total staff)
None of the officers reported they
received any training in human rights
when asked. Officers said they would
like the training if available.

2.	Structural concerns
3.	Refurbish or replace?

4.	Photo

Conditions of
1.	Living space per inmate

2.	Are cells clean?
3.	Do all inmates have

256 (89-convicted; 167-Pre-Trial (PT))
6 (0-(C); 6-PT)

4.	Artificial lighting?
5.	Is light sufficient for
reading and working?
6.	Are cells ventilated and
have fresh air?

MOI rents the building and has occupied it for five years. It was previously a
factory before being remodeled into jail;
built in the early 1900s.
Too small; no recreation area; no programming areas.
Police are using the top floor. If they
move out, the building would be adequate for housing, but there would still
need to be recreation space. Options are
to make a recreation area in parking lot
area or on the roof.

Overcrowded – there were 256 males
in 10 cells. The cells are approximately
52 sq m (560 sq ft), which provides less
than 22 sq ft/inmate living space. There
is no space for personal possessions, but
there is sufficient space to sleep.
Reasonably clean for crowded conditions. Trash is removed on regular basis.
Very few bugs were observed.
No. Most cells had 25 – 28
inmates. Four to six inmates per cell
did not have beds, but slept on mattresses on the floor in the common area
between bunk beds. Linen and blankets
were adequate.
Yes, there was a good source of lighting/windows along one entire wall.
Can get fresh air, but not much f

* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

40 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 41

7.	Heating and Air

8.	Water source
and availability
9.	Is there sufficient
drinking water?
10. Is human waste
processed away from prisonliving quarters?
1.	Is clothing issued?
2.	Laundry or Exchange

3.	Is clothing replaced?

None. No heating, but inmates said they
were provided sufficient blankets to
keep warm in the winter. No A/C, but
there were fans. Some inmates complained it was hot in the summer.
Hooked up to city water. Sufficient
water always available.
Sufficient water for drinking in cells
always available.
The toilets are inadequate for the number of prisoners and are not sanitary.
There is no sewage system.
No. Inmates have up to five sets of their
own civilian clothes.
Not performed by facility. Inmates are
provided detergent and can wash their
clothes as needed in their cells. Clothes
hanging/drying in cells and by windows.
Not by facility. Family members are allowed to bring in clothes if needed.

1.	How is abuse reported?

Inmates may submit a written complaint to an officer or give directly to
the Warden when he visits. Captain
visits inmates three times per week. If
he receives a complaint, he conducts an
interview in his office.
2.	Number of abuses reported? None reported within past year according to the Captain.
* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

42 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

3.	How are they investigated
and resolved?

The Captain would review and submit
to an investigation committee. The
committee’s findings are then submitted
through the Captain to Warden.
4.	Are staff members held
Use of progressive discipline including
accountable? How?
warning, transfer, termination, or criminal charges.
Inmates interviewed said they were
5.	How is your treatment here? treated well and had no complaints.
6.	Do you know what the
facility rules are?
7. What happens if
prisoners violate a rule?

8. What types of
discipline are used?
9. Have you known any
inmate that received
physical discipline?
10. Were staff members
held accountable?

Inmates said they were provided an
inmate handbook with facility rules on
Inmates said that they would face internal sanctions or possibly be placed in
segregation. The biggest incentive for
good behavior is good time awards. A
file is kept on all inmates and they are
allowed a total of three violations. If
they get more than that, they lose good
time award.
Prisoners lose commissary privileges
for smuggling contraband. Some prisoners appear to be subject to arbitrary
Inmates said no. One inmate has been
at the facility for four years and said he
had never seen any inmate who received physical discipline.
Staff members have been fired,
demoted, or criminally prosecuted for
abusing prisoners.

* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 43

1.	How is it provided?

2.	How often are
prisoners fed?
3.	What is served?

4.	Are quantity and
quality adequate?

The prison authorities provide for all
food for prisons and jails. Inmates
prepare the food at the on-site kitchen.
Inmates, staff, police, and supervisors
all eat the same food.
Three times daily.
Fruits and vegetables three times per
week. Meat five times per week. Bread,
rice, and soup daily. One meal was observed and looked acceptable.
Quality and quantity looked acceptable.
Inmates said that it was okay, but there
will always be those who complain no
matter what is served.

Health Care*
1.	Are medical personnel
at the facility?

Yes. There is a small clinic. They have
a doctor available eight hours a day and
a nurse available 12 hours a day on a
daily basis.
2.	Are inmates examined upon Yes. The facility won’t accept them unarrival at the facility?
less it receives a report that the inmate
has been cleared. There is a medical
unit for jails and prisons that provides
A nurse visits the cells daily and the
3.	Is there daily sick call? If
not daily, how often?
doctor visits three days per week.
4.	Dentist access?
A dentist visits two days per week (Sundays and Thursdays).
* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

5.	Is there medicine
at the facility?

There are minimal items in the clinic. If
an item is not available in the clinic, it
will be ordered by facility management.
If there is a problem obtaining a certain
medicine or drug, the facility management will allow family members to
provide it.

6.	What if life, limb, or eyesight emergency occurs?

Facility management will have police
(who are on-site in the facility) transport to a local hospital. The facility is in
town, so it is just a matter of minutes to
a hospital.
A psychologist visits the facility every
The facility policy is to keep and medicate the prisoner if not too serious. The
only facility for long-term mental health
care is a mental hospital in a neighboring town.
There are currently four inmates on
medication who receive weekly
psychiatrist visits.
Mentally disabled prisoners are given
more latitude by line staff. Physically
disabled prisoners have no ramp access
to the recreation yard or cafeteria and
must be carried. Showers do not accommodate wheel chairs.

7.	Is there mental health counseling available?
8.	What is the process for
mental health issues or
9.	Are there current mental
health issues?

10. Are accommodations
made for a person with a
physical or mental disability?
1.	Are all inmates given an ID
number upon arrival at the
2.	Is all paperwork concerning
the inmates case kept at the

No. There is currently no system in
place for issuing identification numbers.
Files are maintained by name.
Yes. Hard files are kept in cabinets in
a designated records room, along with
medical files. There is no set filing system as each prison has its own method.

* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

44 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 45

3.	How is it maintained (hardcopy or electronic)?

Maintain hard copies, as well as some
information on computer.

4.	Is anyone being held withTwo-thirds of the population is pre-trial.
out conviction papers? How However, all detainees have a detenmany?
tion order or court sentencing. This may
require an audit of files to be accurate.
5.	Is anyone being held in pre- Two-thirds of the population is pre-trial
trial detention? How many? (173/262).
6.	Has anyone in pretrial not
seen a judge? How many?
7.	Have any pretrial detainees
been held longer than 90

8.	Are detainees segregated
based on age, gender, and
pre-trial vs. conviction?

No. They have all seen judges. Some
see a judge on a monthly or bi-monthly
Yes, including some for several years
(one man for seven years on a murder
charge). This is due to several factors:
lack of forensic capabilities whereby
convictions are based solely on witness
statements; inability to locate and transport witnesses to court; judges take their
time and wait for resolution between
families before imposing criminal sentence.
This facility does not house juveniles. It
houses adult male and female offenders
only. The males are separated by sight/
sound from the females. Males are not
separated by classification or by pre-trial vs. convicted. They are separated into
two sections: 1. Computer/fraud (white
collar crimes) and 2. Criminal offenses
(murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.). Facility management tries to house common
groups together in cells.

* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

9.	How are inmates transported No corrections transport teams. The
to court?
police do all of the transports. There are
police stationed at this prison, so it is
not a problem.
Once prisoners complete their sentence,
10. What is the release
they are released out the door/gate.
They are not required to return to the
arresting station for release.
1.	Does facility issue personal Yes – all they need.
hygiene items?
2.	Are they replaced?
Yes – when needed.
3.	How frequently are showers The rules are that inmates can shower
twice a week in the summer and once
a week in the winter. The staff turns
showers off at midnight. However,
inmates said they could shower all they
wanted, and one inmate said he would
shower several times a day in the summer to keep cool.
4.	How many showers are
There is only one in each cell, which
houses between 25-28
5.	How many toilets are

Only one per cell, which houses between 25-28 inmates.

6.	Are the housing areas clean? The cells were obviously crowded and
cluttered. Two inmates are assigned
each day (rotating basis) to clean the
cells. They have an officer in charge of
assigning them and ensuring they clean
their area.
7.	Is the overall facility clean? Yes, they have six inmates assigned to
clean the facility in addition to the two
assigned to clean cells.
* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

46 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 47

1.	What constitutes
an infraction?

2.	What types of discipline
are used?
3.	Is physical punishment ever
4.	Do inmates receive facility
rules at the time of
1.	Is visitation allowed?
2.	How often?
3.	Who is allowed to visit?
4.	Where is it held?
5.	What are the
visitation rules?

The prison authorities issue a handbook
describing facility rules. No contraband, no alcohol or drugs, no gambling,
no violence, no refusing an order, no
abusive language, no false accusations,
no excess amount of money or jewelry,
no unauthorized sending or receiving of
Warnings, loss of good time, no participation in recreation, no correspondence
for one month, no visits, solitary confinement.
Yes. They receive an inmate handbook
which is uniform for all prisons.

Twice/week for males and once/week
for females (only six).
Family and friends. They fill out an application and are put on a list.
Visitation area in front of facility.
Non-contact. Exceptions (for contact a
visit) can be made by written request to
Captain (i.e., haven’t seen wife in long
time, death in family, conflict resolution, etc.).

* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

6.	Are inmates allowed
phone calls?

Inmate Programming*
1.	Is there recreation?
What types?
2.	How often are inmates
allowed to recreate?
3.	Are inmates allowed to
practice choice of religion?
4.	Are inmates provided an
opportunity for education/
vocational classes?
What types?
5.	Are inmates allowed to
work? What types of jobs?
6.	Are they compensated?
7.	Is education/work

Yes, there are seven pay phones available in the common area. Numbers are
recorded and tracked. No incoming
calls. Family can bring in coins. This
is unusual: inmates are allowed to keep
the equivalent of $108 USD with them!
Any amount over that, along with other
personal property, is kept in lockers in
the records room.
None other than TV and some board
games. This is a major issue at the facility.
None offered. Some inmates do some
handcrafts on their own with materials
brought in by their family, but none are
provided by the facility.
Yes, but job availability is limited.
Currently have five cooks, six porters,
and one maintenance worker.
Not with money. They do get some benefits, such as longer visits, extra food,
and phone calls.
The Captain will select inmates for
the few jobs available, but they are not

* requires first-hand observation and/or inmate interview.

48 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 49

Any Special Problems
Facility condition

Physical security/safety

Force protection/quick
reaction force
Staffing needs

Weapons needs

Contraband issues

Staff issues: pay
and equipment

Too small; not enough inmate housing
area; no programming or recreation
space available; poor ventilation.
In 2007, seven inmates escaped. They
were assisted by a staff member who
gave them cutting instruments and gave
other officers sedatives. The inmates cut
through a wall, went out the bathroom
window, and then tied blankets together
to lower themselves to the ground.
Some were captured.
It’s not really a problem because the
police occupy the second floor and are
on-site for response.
The Captain said he needs twice as
many officer­—for a total of about 75,
and they need training. Right now the
officers are working 12-14 hours per
day. They have two rotations and work
one week on, one week off (seven day
work week).
The Captain said they have no weapons
needs at this time due to the proximity
of the police station, small area, and no
recreation or transport needs.
Sometimes inmates get cell phones;
there are limited hash/marijuana issues.
Not much of a problem with weapons.
Cell searches are conducted monthly.
The corrections officers make the same
money as the police. However, they
work 12-14 hours per day compared to
police who work only eight hour shifts.

50 | A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems

External grievance or
monitoring system

Improvements Made
Have there been any
improvements made
since the last visit?

There is a prison ombudsman funded
by several human rights groups and the
Ministry of Justice. Grievances related
to abuse or violation-of-rights are always forwarded to the ombudsman who
investigates all reports.
I last visited the facility six months ago
on 11/2/10. The outer wall has been
painted and facility is now hooked up
to community water. Four additional
staff members have been hired and all
correctional officers have received basic
human rights training.
The Government passed legislation last
month for the emergency release of pretrial detainees with non-violent charges
who have been held over six months.
This lowered overcrowding in this facility by 20% according to records and the
records officer.

A Practical Guide to Understanding and Evaluating Prison Systems | 51

Printed by A/GIS/GPS, May 2012



The Habeas Citebook: Prosecutorial Misconduct Side
PLN Subscribe Now Ad 450x450
Federal Prison Handbook - Side