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A Look at the “New-Generation” Jail
By Adrian Smith
Published: 04/08/2013

Jail interior What is meant by describing a new generation jail? How does the new model of managing a jail system differ from the evolution time period of corrections? In this article we will take a look at some of the characteristics of the new generation jail and also look at the aspects of direct and indirect-supervision jails.

According to Siegel and Worrall (2010), to relieve overcrowding and improve effectiveness, a jail-building boom has been underway. Many of the new jails are using modern designs to improve effectiveness; these are referred to as new-generation jails. Traditional jails are constructed on what is referred to as the linear/intermittent surveillance model. Jails designed this way are rectangular, with corridors leading to either single-or multiple-occupancy cells arranged at right angles to the corridor. Correctional officers must patrol to see into cells or housing areas, and when they are in a position to observe one cell, they cannot observe others; unobserved inmates are essentially unsupervised.

In contrast, new-generation jails allow for continuous observation for inmates. There are two types: direct-supervision and indirect-supervision jails. Direct supervision jails contain a cluster of cells surrounding a living area or “pod”, which contains tables, chairs, and televisions. A correctional officer is stationed within the pod. The officer has visual observation of inmates and maintains the ability to relate to them on a personal level. Placing the officer in the pod increases the officer’s awareness of the behaviors and needs of the inmate. This results in a safer environment for both staff and inmates. Because interaction between inmates is constantly and closely monitored, dissension can be quickly detected before it escalates. During the day, inmates stay in the open area (dayroom) and typically are not permitted to go their rooms except with permission of the officer in charge. This aspect can vary from jail to jail.

The officer or civilian type employee controls the door lock to cells from the control panel. In case of trouble or if the officer leaves the station for an extended period of time , command of this panel can be switched to a panel at a remote location, known as central control. Again this can vary from jail to jail depending of your facilities standard operation procedures. The officer usually wears a device that permits immediate communication with central control in case of trouble, and the area is also covered by a video camera monitored by an officer in the central control room.

Indirect-supervision jails are similar construction; however, the correctional officer’s station is located inside a secure room. Microphones and speakers inside the living unit permit the officer to hear and communicate with inmates. Although these institutions have not yet undergone extensive evaluation, research shows that they may help reduce post release offending in some situations. However, some critics suggest new-generation jails have failed to live up to their promise because they lack important components, such as normalized living environment, in their facilities.

What’s your take on the new-generation jail system?

Corrections.com author, Adrian Smith, is a Classification Officer for Orange County Corrections in Orlando, Fl. He holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Upper Iowa University and a Masters of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Everest University. He is currently obtaining his Doctorial Degree in Public Safety Leadership from Capella University. Adrian is an adjunct instructor for Everest University Online Division in the Justice Studies Department. Adrian has been in Corrections for 6 years working for Florida’s Prison and Jail system. He can be reached at Adrian.Smith@ocfl.net

Other articles by Adrian Smith


  1. amenadiel8520 on 11/28/2019:

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  6. alexjohn on 06/15/2019:

    This new-generation jail will provide the inmates with comfort, and that will be better for them. The Interior design Companies UK did a great job with the design here, and they should be applauded for it.

  7. PeggyDavidson590 on 01/08/2019:

    Interesting to see the evolution of the prison layout. Took a class in college called Sociology of Deviant Behavior and it touched on systems like this, but they were some of the earliest jails in recorded history. Seems like it is coming full circle. Peggy @ Savannah Tree Service

  8. asmith5022 on 06/05/2013:

    Society as a whole, sorry.

  9. asmith5022 on 06/05/2013:

    MBA Student, Unfortunately you are correct. But what are educators doing about this issue? Unfortunately, prisons and jails are neccessary for social control, people are getting arrested and sent to prison everyday. Everyone doesn't value education as you and I, and society accepts this. Society as a hold, needs to hold parents, families, and educators accountable for making sure our youth are receiving an education and not falling into our jails and prisons.

  10. MBA student on 05/14/2013:

    It is sad when more money is put into building prisons, then to improving education...

  11. Fred Davis on 04/21/2013:

    Communication is very important.

  12. Molly on 04/16/2013:

    I have worked in both direct and indirect-supervision facilities. Though both has it advantages, I prefer working in a direct supervision (New generation) type jail setting. It promotes more effective communication between the officer and inmates. Problem solving is easier because of the officer being in direct contact with the inmates, which helps prevent many problems before they occur. Identifying problems and problem makers is easier, whereas if an officer is working in an in-direct supervision jail it may be harder to identify potential problems because of the lack of constant communication.

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