Types of Prisons

We often see people on television taken away to be incarcerated in prison, but give it very little thought as to which type of prison they will go to. In this post we examine the types of prisons out there and the type of criminals they hold.

Juvenile Prisons

According to the United States Department of Justice, a Juvenile is a person under the age of 18 years old. These Prisons are run and maintained to cater only to juveniles and help with rehabilitation; Rehabilitation of Juveniles would be impossible in prisons filled with the general prisoner population.

The efficacy of these prisons, however, has been called into question in recent years.

Minimum Security Prisons

Minimum securities prisons house very low-risk prisoners and many of them have minimum security. The prisoners in these prisons are mostly white collar crime criminals. White collar crimes are financial crimes such as fraud, extortion, bribery, and embezzlement. As you can see it is non-violent crimes and that is the reason for the low security measures.

Some of these prisons have the prisoners work in the local community during the day and transport them back to prison after their shift ends.

The sleeping quarters are more dorm room styled than the typical prison we see in the movies.

Medium Security Prisons

With medium security prisons, we see the famous razor wire on top of the fences and vehicles patrolling the perimeter. Medium security prisons hold a wide variety of prisoners. Violence is also very likely.

The cell areas are the movie-styled cages that we see in movies.

Close security Prisons

The big difference between close security prisons and medium security prisons are that they house each prisoner in their own cell. Another difference is that they have higher security internally compared to medium security prisons. Prisoners are still allowed to attend programs and interact with fellow inmates during the day.

Maximum Security Prisons/ Super-Max Prisons

In these prisons, you find the prisoners that pose a high threat to the public. The security level is as the name suggests at the Maximum. In most cases in these prisons, the prisoners spend 23 hours of their day in the cell and are only allowed to exercise and shower in specific areas for one hour of the day.

The cells in these prisons are very basic and each cell houses only one prisoner. The floors are concrete and the furniture is usually made out of steel. There is also very few activities for the prisoners and virtually no programs for rehabilitation.


Medical Centers is run by the state and on the Federal level. These facilities are used to house prisoners that require psychiatric help. Many of the prisoners would not function in the regular prisons because of their mental disorders. Psychiatric facilities hold the full spectrum of criminals from white collar to murderers and gang members.

The point of these facilities is patient rehabilitation and to help them become positive contributors to society when they leave the system.

Military Prisons

Military prisons are all run by their respective branches, that is to say, Army, Navy, Special Forces. Every section has its own set of rules and regulations they adhere to and they do not fall subject to common laws used for the public. In some cases, it ends up that the prison conditions are more severe than regular prisons.

Private Prisons also known as Prisons for Profit

Private prisons are run by third-party organizations to gain a profit. The idea behind privatizing prisons is to save on costs by using open market to get a better deal.

The problem with private prisons are companies will do whatever they can to make money and this sometimes results in bad living conditions for prisoners.

The difference between Federal and State Prisons

Federal Prisons are created and maintained by the Federal Government and deals with criminals found guilty of federal crimes. If the crimes of the criminal were mostly violent however they will more than likely be held at a state prison.

There are a lot more state prisons than federal prisons. There are currently plus minus 1720 state prisons and they are operated and governed by each state they are situated in.

The United States federal government currently has 122 federal prisons operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons also known as BOP.

The federal prisons are broken up into 5 types of prisons:

Minimum – Also referred to as Federal Prison Camps.

Low – Low-security Federal Institutions

Medium – Medium security FCIs

High – United States Penitentiaries

Complex – Federal Correctional Complexes (FCCs)

Administrative – These facilities include pre-trial holding facilities, high escape risk prisoners, prisoners with mental health issues, and highly violent and dangerous individuals.

Prisoners in Federal facilities are also not eligible for parole.

The Difference between Jail and Prison

Prisons are facilities run by the state and Federal government to incarcerate people that have been found guilty and sentenced to be removed from society for a certain period of time as a punishment.

Jails, on the other hand, are much smaller facilities that are designed to hold people awaiting trial and sentencing. Many times prisoners serve sentences in jail facilities when the incarceration time is less than one year.


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