The Federal Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the numerous federal prisons in the United States.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the numerous federal prisons in the United States.

The U.S. correctional system is complex. There are numerous jurisdictions in the system: federal, state and countless local facilities. The military has its own system and generally there is a juvenile jail-alternative arrangement. Those who break state laws and are convicted end up in state prisons or local jails. Felons who violate federal laws are sent to federal prisons. In 2010 there were 210,426 inmates in federal prisons, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or BOP. Federal and state prisons segregate by gender, usually in separate prisons. The BOP has seven prisons for women and has two death rows, one for women and one for men.

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Federal Prison Camps, which are minimum security prisons, usually are the most open prisons with minimal fencing, if any. Residents in this type of prison sleep in dormitories and are usually in a work or study program.

Federal Correctional Institutions

Prisons have barbed wire fences around their perimeters.
Prisons have barbed wire fences around their perimeters.

Federal Correctional Institutions, which are low security prisons, usually have a double wire fence. The inmates sleep in dormitories or cubicles. There is usually a strict work program.

Federal Medium Security Prisons

Medium security prisons have secure perimeters. Inmates sleep in cells and have more internal controls. These prisons also have work and treatment programs.

U.S. Penitentiaries

U.S. penitentiaries, which are high security prisons, have very secure boundaries. The inmates sleep in double or single cells and are closely controlled.

Correctional Complex Institutions

Some BOP prisons are in correctional complex institutions and have different missions and security levels. Other BOP institutions include satellite camps and satellite low security facilities.

State Prisons

State prisons incarcerate convicted felons whose sentences for state crimes are usually longer than a year. Just as in the federal system, there are different types of prisons. There are prisons for women and men. There are prisons with different security levels and prisons that address mental health problems. Halfway houses, such as Dismas House have programs that seek to rehabilitate offenders and merge them back into society. In 2010 many state prison systems faced drastic funding cuts, eliminating drug abuse and other treatment programs. Correction officers and other positions were eliminated, causing increased concern for guard and prisoner safety. Several states have closed prisons, sometimes causing overcrowding. Some state prisons are built and administered by private companies.

Local Jails

Local jails are local as the name implies and are multitudinous. They are short-term detention facilities. They sometimes hold people before and after court hearings, for individuals awaiting mental health evaluation and those with shorter sentences. Lockups, usually in police stations, are holding facilities for persons just entering the criminal justice system.