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Do Inmates Prefer to Share a Cell or Have One All to Themselves?

Do Inmates Prefer to Share a Cell or Have One All to Themselves?


When you get a long sentence, even a year in county jail, your life is no longer in your own hands. Almost everything in your life is decided for you, from what you eat to what you wear to where you live to how you spend your time.

When it comes to inmate housing, you may encounter many different situations in prison. Housing assignments are based on the crime you have been convicted of, and whether you are in a state or federal facility.

Housing styles vary widely, and prisoners have no say in what cell or room they end up in. But if they had their way, would prisoners prefer to share a cell or be alone?

In today’s blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • Different Prison Housing Styles
  • Most prisoners prefer to share a cell
  • Do prison buildings matter?

Different Prison Housing Styles

When I was arrested, the first thing I noticed about prisons and cells was that they looked nothing like what I had seen on TV. Prisoners were rarely housed in rooms with bars and doors that opened with keys.

Only in facilities built before the 1970s will you find traditional cells like these. Some older jails have barred cells for one or two prisoners.These are the types of cells you’d see in old movies or early 20th century movies The Shawshank Redemption.

In that housing unit there are multiple floors with rows of fenced cells that can be opened individually or all at once by the control room. Prisoners are typically locked in their cells for most of the day, only allowed to leave to eat in the cafeteria, yard time, or shower.

This is a very old style of prison architecture. Many facilities built after the 1970s were built for a direct supervisory prisoner management model that allowed for more interaction among prisoners and between prisoners and staff.

In these types of facilities, you’ll often find dormitory-style prisoner housing, with many bunk beds in one large open room, sometimes divided into cubicles with half walls. You might find college dormitory-style housing, like the women’s prison I was put in.

In the university dormitory model, we have two floors with 12 rooms on each floor. Each room holds six prisoners. There is a communal shower and bathroom on each floor, plus a lounge. Prisoners have keys to their rooms, and they have normal doors. Our rooms are open 24/7 and prisoners are free to move about in the unit.

Typically, the more restrictive single cell units and styles are located in maximum security prisons. Dormitory style applies to minimum security facilities. In more restrictive facilities, you are more likely to be placed in a single or double cell. In less affordable housing units, you can live in a room with up to 50 or more people.

But no matter what type of housing unit you live in as a prison inmate, one thing is universal – privacy is a luxury unless you are in solitary confinement.

Most prisoners prefer to share a cell

The answers to today’s blog post questions will vary depending on who you’re talking to. Some prisoners prefer to share a cell, while others prefer to have a cell to themselves, but this question requires some additional context.

Sharing a cell is probably better so you can talk to someone if you don’t have much freedom of movement in prison. It’s the worst thing if you’re stuck with a bad cellie.

During the four years I was in prison, I had dozens of cells, some of them were really good, and we became good friends. Others were rude, loud and violent, or because they were snoring, and I immediately wanted to leave.

In my experience, most people want to share a room with someone they feel comfortable with, rather than being alone. After all, prisons use solitary confinement as punishment. Being alone for too long can be torture. Surprisingly, your sanity may depend on being with other people.

I should mention that the inmates I’ve met who would rather they be in their cells are lifers – people who will never leave. They see the cell as their home. Since they are free to move around the housing unit on a daily basis, they prefer to have their own space.

Do prison buildings matter?

Believe it or not, research shows that the way prisons are built and how prisoners are housed plays an extremely important role in recovery. Tensions increase “psychological stress” when prisoners are isolated and under constant surveillance.

When inmates had more interaction with other inmates and prison staff — open housing plans, no bars and lounges — the study showed “less inappropriate behavior among prisoners” and “fewer mental health problems.”

“In other words, good staff-prisoner relations are important for prison manageability and security,” says Karin Badgersbergen, a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Crime and Law Enforcement Research.

According to Beijersbergen, “more prison architects need to understand how their buildings affect the lives of residents, rather than just focusing on aesthetics or safety.”

Her research is published in crime and crime It concluded that “architectural style, floor plans and other design features” also had a significant impact on how prisoners perceived their relationship with prison staff and other prisoners.

Do you think you’ll want a separate cell? Or, would you rather share it with Sally? Let us know in the comments below.

Sources:

Direct Supervision: A Safer, More Effective Jail



How Prison Architecture Can Transform Inmates' Lives



Afraid of Jail? Buy An Upgrade