A prison or penitentiary or jail (in British English, sometimes spelled gaol) comprises a building or system used to hold persons convicted of crimes.

Undergoing punishment though a prison sentence has the colloquial name of "doing time". Synonyms of "prison" include "hoosegow", "clink" and "lockup".

Table of contents
1 Prisons in the United States
2 List of prisons
3 List of prison corporations
4 Further reading
5 External links

Prisons in the United States

As of 2003, the United States prison population is the world's largest in absolute numbers according to available statistics. It is second largest in relative numbers to Rwanda, where as of 2002, over 100,000 people where held on suspicion of participation in the 1994 genocide. No data is available for North Korea. [1]

The large prison population in the US results primarily from high crime rates, long sentences, and a rigidly fought "War on Drugs". Some observers have gone so far as to accuse the United States of deliberately developing the legal system and the prison industry as a means of social control (a conspiracy theory).

In recent years, debate about prisons in the United States has focused on the pros and cons of the privatization of prisons. The argument for privatization stresses cost reduction, whereas the arguments against it focus on standards of care, and the question of whether a market economy for prisons might not also lead to a market demand for prisoners (that is, a strong lobby for ever-tougher sentencing to satisfy the need for cheap labor). While privatized prisons have only a short history, inmates in state- and federal-run prisons also undertake active employment in prison for low pay.

Many observers generally regard prison conditions in the United States as problematic, with prisoner violence and rape wide-spread and medical care for inmates inadequate. Gang violence has recently become a major problem, since many gang members retain their affiliations when incarcerated for various crimes. An August 2003 Harper's article by Wil S. Hylton estimated that "somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of American prisoners are, at this very moment, infected with hepatitis C". Prisons may outsource medical care to private companies such as Correctional Medical Services, which, according to Hylton's research, try to minimize the amount of care given to prisoners in order to maximize profits.

Private companies which provide services to prisons combine in the American Correctional Association. Their lobbying arm, ALEC, advocates legislation favorable to the industry.

Prisons may specialize exclusively in male or in female prisoners, or have separate departments for each sex.

List of prisons



United Kingdom

United States

Other countries

List of prison corporations

See also: private prisons, United Kingdom prison population, penal colony

Further reading

External links