Deciding who to live with—boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, or roommate—is one of the things in life that is critical to your well-being. If you live with someone you don’t like or don’t get along with, it can lead to a myriad of problems. But what do you do when you don’t have a say in who you live with?
When you’re in jail, you have absolutely zero input on who you share your cell with. Or, if you live in a dormitory, you cannot choose who you share a bed with. Instead, you are sorted by the prison administration, which affects your housing unit as well as your roommates.
In one of my funniest prison stories (according to my friends), when I got a job in the cafeteria, I was moved into a new room because I lived in a wing with only food service staff. I should point out that I was incarcerated in a facility where everyone went from lowest security to highest security and they mixed levels of supervision within the housing unit.
I did four years for owning and growing marijuana, but I live with inmates based on personality classifications (which I explain in this post) rather than security ratings.
So, I moved my stuff into the room and installed a TV in my bunk. You always have to have headphones on, so I put them on while I was packing up.when i turn on the tv it’s playing snap up, It’s a true crime series about women who kill their husbands with a snap.
While I was watching this show (my roommates couldn’t see or hear it), a new roommate of mine walked into the room. She introduced herself to me as Sandra and she was absolutely lovely. After we chatted for a minute, she was off to work.At that time, I looked back at the TV and the story they were talking about was The case of a Missouri woman named Sandra Plunkett, who killed her husband, is now serving a life sentence. Yes, you guessed it, that’s my new roommate.
However, the next day she got into a fight at work and the police took her to the hole. That was the last time I spoke to her because she moved to another housing unit as soon as she was able to get out.
So, this funny story got me thinking about the question of the day: How do prisoners change their cellmates AKA “cellie”?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Prisoner Classification System
- Different Types of Prisoner Housing
- The Process of Moving When You Are an Inmate
Prisoner Classification System
Every prisoner who enters a prison at the federal and state levels is “sorted” when he is first detained. The process usually takes about 30 to 60 days and you go through a battery of tests: education, personality, history of drug addiction, criminal history, mental health, etc…
Of course, classification results have different meanings depending on the state and facility. In my experience, they assign housing based on character, not guardianship level. I don’t have to go into details because they are different in each state, but basically they divide us into three personality types: aggressive, non-aggressive, and neutral.
They don’t put a bunch of aggressive prisoners in the same room, so they’re always trying to mix different personality types. However, sometimes they can’t even do that due to overcrowding.
Some prisons assign housing based on supervision level, and if you have special mental health needs or treatment needs, many facilities have special housing units for these inmates. There are also faith-based residence halls, honors residence halls, and housing based on job specifics and sentence length.
Different Types of Prisoner Housing
Most prisons have single or double cells or dormitories. Depending on the facility, a dorm may look like a large warehouse filled with dozens of bunk beds.Sometimes the bunks are divided into cubicles with half walls, as in previous seasons orange is the new black.
Single and double cells are usually found in higher-level prisons, while dormitories are suitable for lower-security cells, as there is more freedom of movement. Some cells are locked for up to 23 hours a day, while in the dormitories you are allowed to move around the dormitory or other parts of the compound during the day.
I actually live in a unique housing environment. At WERDCC we have college dormitory style housing with six women in a room (two single beds and two bunk beds) and each of us has a key to the room.
Bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities are shared by all prisoners in the wing, and we also have a lounge where we can play games, cook in the microwave or watch TV. However, we were not allowed to leave the wing without permission, and the heavy wing doors were always closed and locked unless an officer opened them.
The Process of Moving When You Are an Inmate
If you want to change rooms or change cellmates, the fastest way is to use violence. A fight automatically sends you into the hole, and in the prison I was held in, you were never put back in the same room after leaving the hole.
However, you don’t get to choose where and with whom you live. It’s always up to the management, they won’t take requests when you’re away.
I will say though, if you get on well with the officers and case staff, you have a long sentence, and you don’t get in any trouble, there are ways to get people to move into the rooms you want.
Some prisons do have a formal application process for housing, but it is up to staff to approve or deny applications. Also, if you’re in a gang, they’ll make sure you don’t live with an opposing gang member, and if you have a “known enemy” on the street, you can fill out paperwork to make sure you’re never placed with that person .
Depending on the facility, they may have occasional “happy moves” that let inmates choose their roommates and housing units. However, you must exhibit your best behavior to participate. research shows The more prisoners got along better with their female cellmates, the better off they were. So it makes sense for the prison to grant the relocation request.
Still, with our prison system being overcrowded, it’s amazing that they have any process when it comes to allocating berths to prisoners. In many places, a cell for one holds two prisoners, while a cell for two holds three.
In the sextuple room I was in, it was designed to accommodate four people. But, they just added some bunk beds, bringing it up to six, and we were all in a 10×10 room.
Justified moving to prison. If you change jobs, guardianship levels, or if you are close to your release date, the administration will assign a new residence. When this happens, you have to pack all your stuff into a metal box (they will allow you to put multiple boxes if you’re in there for a long time) and load a cart.
Then you have to roll that trolley to the new housing unit, which can sometimes be on the other side of the camp, and help isn’t allowed.
Like moving in the real world, it’s a pain. So, if you can stand your cells and bunkies, better stay where you are until they let you through the gate.
Does the sorting and housing assignment process surprise you? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Do Cellmates Matter? A Study of Prison Peer Effects under Essential Heterogeneity Snapped: Sandra Plunkett