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Assigning Inmates to Prison

Prison classification is a method of assessing inmate risks that balance security requirements with program needs. Newly admitted inmates are transported from county jails to one of 11 prison receiving centers where the risk assessment process begins. There are two reception centers for females, two for male youth, and seven for adult males. Upon admission, processing and evaluation of offenders begins. They are put through a series of evaluations, including medical and mental health screenings. Prison classification specialists develop an individual profile of each inmate that includes the offender’s crime, social background, education, job skills and work history, health, and criminal record, including prior prison sentences. Based on this information, the offender is assigned to the most appropriate custody classification and prison.

From this initial classification, inmate behavior and continuing risk assessments by prison staff will determine the inmate’s progression through the various custody levels to minimum custody and eventual release. Prison managers assign inmates to work, rehabilitative self improvement programs, and treatment. As inmates serve their sentences, the inmates who comply with prison rules, do assigned work, and participate in corrective programs, may progress toward minimum custody. Inmates who violate prison rules are punished and may be classified for a more restrictive custody classification and a more secure prison. Inmates are then required to demonstrate responsible and improved behavior over time to progress from this status to less restrictive custody classifications and prisons.

Inmate Custody Levels
Inmates may be classified and assigned to the following custodial levels; close, medium, minimum I, minimum II and minimum III. The classification levels are in descending order of perceived public safety risks presented by the inmate. Inmates in close custody present the highest risk while inmates in minimum III generally present the least risk. Within this mix of custodial assignments, inmates also may be subject to various control statuses. The control statuses include maximum, death row, intensive, safekeeper, disciplinary, administrative and protective. Each of these control statuses further restricts inmate freedoms and privileges. Assignment and removal of inmates from these statuses is generally at the discretion of higher level classification authorities in the Division of Prisons. The imposition of these additional custody control measures are generally for the purpose of maintaining order in the prison, protecting staff safety or providing for inmate safety.

Prison Security Levels
Prisons are classified and designated by security level. The security levels used by the Division of Prisons are close, medium, and minimum. Specific cell areas within close security institutions may be designated by the Director of Prisons as maximum security. Security levels are determined by the design and unique features of the prison, the level of staffing, and the operating procedures. Maximum security is the most restrictive level of confinement and minimum security is the least restrictive. The prison security level is an indicator of the extent to which an offender who is assigned to that facility is separated from the civilian community.

Maximum security units are comprised of cells with sliding cell doors that are remotely operated from a secure control station. Maximum security units are designated by the Director of Prisons at selected close security prisons. These units are utilized to confine the most dangerous inmates who are a severe threat to public safety, correctional staff, and other inmates. Inmates confined in a maximum security unit typically are in their cell 23 hours a day. During the other hour they may be allowed to shower and exercise in the cellblock or an exterior cage. All inmate movement is strictly controlled with the use of physical restraints and correctional officer escort. 

Polk Youth Institution
Polk Youth Institution
Butner, NC
Close security

Close security prisons typically are comprised of single cells and divided into cellblocks, which may be in one building or multiple buildings. Cell doors generally are remotely controlled from a secure control station. Each cell is equipped with its own combination plumbing fixture, which includes a sink and toilet. The perimeter barrier is designed with a double fence with armed watch towers or armed roving patrols. Inmate movement is restricted and supervised by correctional staff. Inmates are allowed out of their cells to work or attend corrective programs inside the facility.
Medium security prisons typically are comprised of secure dormitories that provide housing for up to 50 inmates each. Each dormitory contains a group toilet and shower area as well as sinks. Inmates sleep in a military style double bunk and have an adjacent metal locker for storage of uniforms, undergarments, shoes, etc. Each dormitory is locked at night with a correctional officer providing direct supervision of the inmates and sleeping area. The prison usually has a double fence perimeter with armed watch towers or armed roving patrols. There is less supervision and control over the internal movement of inmates than in a close security prison. 

Wayne Correctional Center
Wayne Correctional Center
Goldsboro, NC
Medium security

Some medium security prisons may be designed with dry cells as the method of inmate housing. Dry cells contain no toilet fixture. Most inmate work and self improvement programs are within the prison, although selected medium custody inmates are worked outside of the prison under armed supervision of trained correctional officers. These inmate work assignments support prison farm operations or highway maintenance for the Department of Transportation. Each medium security prison typically has a single cell unit for the punishment of inmates who violate prison rules.

Durham Correction Center
Durham Correctional Center
Durham NC
Minimum security

Minimum security prisons are comprised of non-secure dormitories which are routinely patrolled by correctional officers. Like the medium security dorm, it has it’s own group toilet and shower area adjacent to the sleeping quarters that contain double bunks and lockers. The prison generally has a single perimeter fence which is inspected on a regular basis, but has no armed watch towers or roving patrol. There is less supervision and control over inmates in the dormitories and less supervision of inmate movement within the prison than at a medium facility. Inmates assigned to minimum security prisons generally pose the least risk to public safety. 
Minimum custody inmates at minimum security prisons usually participate in community based work assignments such as the Governor’s Community Work Program, road maintenance with Department of Transportation employee supervision, or work release with civilian employers. Also, inmates may participate in prerelease transition programs with Community Volunteers and family sponsors. The proper security designation of facilities combined with appropriate offender classification and assignment provide the foundation for safe and secure prison management and operational efficiency.

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