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24 Hours in Prison

5:00 sleep wake up sleep
6:00 wake up breakfast wake up
7:00 breakfast/travel to work site travel to work site/work breakfast/go to work in prison
8:00-10:00 work
11:00 30 minutes for lunch 30 minutes for lunch work
12:00 work work 30 minutes for lunch
1:00-2:00 work
3:00 work/travel to prison travel to prison/off duty work day ends/time on prison yard
4:00 off duty/time on prison yard time on prison yard return to cell
5:00 30 minutes for supper
6:00-7:00 time for religious and specialized programming such as religious services, narcotics anonymous, anger management
8:00 return to dorm return to dorm return to cellblock
9:00-10:00 remain in housing area
11:00 lights out; go to sleep
12:00-4:00 lights out; sleep

(This table was prepared to provide insight into prison operations. Prison operations and inmate schedules may vary.)


In close security prisons, inmates remain in the prison 24 hours a day and have no assignments outside of the prison. Movement from one area of the prison to another is restricted. Armed correctional officers man security towers to stop escape attempts.

At 3:30 AM, the first inmates are awakened. They are the kitchen workers who get up to prepare the morning meal. These inmates live and work together. Correctional officers escort them to the kitchen as a group. Each worker is thoroughly frisk searched before entering the kitchen. The first shift kitchen workers arrive at the kitchen for duty at 4 AM to begin preparing for breakfast and the day's meals.

All inmates are awakened at 6 AM for the formal inmate count. Correctional staff count and recount inmates over and over throughout the day. Around 7 AM, the feeding of breakfast begins. All inmate workers report to their jobs at 7:30 AM. Second shift inmate workers may use the gyms, recreation yard and canteens.

Inmates work in the kitchen, license tag plant or laundry, or perform maintenance or janitorial tasks during the day.

Inmate at work in tag plant

Around 3 PM, the inmate usually checks his mail and spends some time on the recreation yard prior to returning to the dining hall for the evening meal at 4 PM. After the evening meal, the inmate will have access to the gym, auditorium or recreation yard. Depending on the day of the week, he may be involved in some organized recreational activities. On Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, there is non-contact visitation with individuals who are on the inmates approved visitors list. The visits are usually from one hour to one and one half hours in duration.

At approximately 6:30 PM, inmates may attend classes in the school or take part in other activities such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Freedoms Journey Classes or Jaycees. At 8:30 PM, another formal count is conducted. At 9 PM, inmates return to their housing area and are allowed to watch television, play checkers, chess, cards or write letters.

At 11 PM, the inmate is locked into his cell and the lights are dimmed for the night.

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In medium security prisons, most inmates remain in the prison 24 hours a day. Armed correctional officers supervise squads of inmates who leave the prison to work on road squads cutting brush or working the fields at the state prison farm. Armed correctional officers man security towers to stop escape attempts.

Inmates dig out ditch to drain highway Inmates wake up at 5:30 AM and have 45 minutes to shower, clean up and make their bed. They go to the dining hall and eat breakfast in shifts beginning at 6:15. The inmates assemble for the count, search and assignment to the road squads at 8 AM and over the next 30 minutes travel to their worksite. The squads work in Pender and three surrounding counties. Travel time may vary, but all squads are busy at work by 9 AM.

Squads work until noon when they get a 30 minute break for lunch. They continue the work until around 3 PM. As they arrive at the prison at 3:30, each inmate must be searched.

Inmates get cleaned up and prepare for dinner which begins at 4:30 PM. Afterwards, they may exchange clothing at the prison clotheshouse, report to staff for counseling or medical appointments or go to the prison yard.

Inmates are locked into the dormitory at 7 PM. They may leave only to take part in religious, education or other programs in the prison's chapel, education center or programs building.

All programs end at 9:30 PM and inmates return to their dorms to be counted. At 10pm, lights are dimmed in the sleeping area and inmates may remain in adjacent dayroom space. The inmates may watch television or play cards or table games. Each dorm wing of 32 inmates share a television and watch programming selected by inmates and preapproved by staff.

At 11:30 PM, inmates are required to go to their dormitory beds and lights are dimmed.

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Inmates must be within five years of release to enter minimum custody. Minimum security prisons prepare inmates for return to the community. While those entering minimum custody are assigned to jobs and remain at the prison, inmates in later phases leave the prison for work assignments. In the final stage of minimum custody, inmates may take part in work release jobs, family visits and community volunteer visits where they leave the prison in the custody of an employer, family member or volunteer.

One of the many work assignments for minimum custody inmates is the community work squad, where inmates are supervised by a correctional officer in a short term, manual labor job for local governments or public agencies.

At 6 AM, inmates are awakened and have time to shower, dress, make up their beds and prepare for breakfast. They eat in the dining hall at 6:45 and then prepare for the day's work.

Inmate clears brush in state park drainage ditch. A correctional officer assembles the community work squad inmates who prepare their equipment and travel by prison van to their work site. By 8 AM, the inmate are hard at work. They work on short term manual labor jobs like clearing brush from ditches, painting public buildings or improving community parks. The work crews get 30 minutes to eat a bag lunch prepared by inmate kitchen workers.

The squads may work up to 5 PM, if the job requires. Normally, they wrap up work and return to the prison around 3-4 PM. They'll get cleaned up and attend to any unit duties they may have. At 5 PM, they'll go to the dining hall for dinner. After dinner, they may have some time on the prison yard. Between 7 and 9 PM, they may participate in specialized or religious programming such as Bible studies or Narcotics Anonymous.

By 9, inmates return to the dormitory they share with up to 150 other inmates. They may talk, play cards or watch the dorm's one television. At 12 AM, dorm lights go out and inmates are required to stay in their bunks.

Correction officers, constantly watching, patrol the dorms.

Inmates repeat this routine day after day after day.

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