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What Do Security Levels Means?

In Massachusetts, when a person is first committed to the DOC they are sent to MCI Concord Prison which is a medium security facility. From there they are transported to the appropriate security level depending on their crime and their sentence. Most inmates stay at medium security and work their way down from there but some are sent to Maximum security. Here is a breakdown of the different security levels.

Maximum security-In Massachusetts this includes prisons such as Walpole and Shirley Super Max. Inmates are put in single man cells and rarely see other inmates. They are locked down most of the day but are allowed a shower and yard time a few times a week. In both cases they are accompanied by correctional officers. In some facilities the "Yard" is nothing more then an outside cage which the inmate is allowed to walk around. All their meals are brought to them at their Cells. Visits are "non contact" which means there is a glass between the inmate and the visitor and they talk to each other over a phone. Inmates at this level are usually incarcerated for murder or crimes of that nature. In Massachusetts they often put certain gang members at this level as well. An inmate a Maximum security facility is given very little if any freedom.

Medium security-This is the category most inmates are placed in. Massachusetts prisons at this level include: MCI Concord and MCI Shirley. Inmates are housed in two man cells unless they are in protective custody. The cells are only large enough to fit a small desk, a toilet, a sink and bunk beds. For those not in protective custody there is an opportunity to obtain a "job" within the facility but this will take a while as there are long waiting lists. Inmates without a job are locked down in their cells anywhere between 23 to 20 hours depending on the building they are in. They go to the "Chow hall" to eat their meals and have yard or gym every other day. They are also allowed some free time in which to take a shower or use the phone. Phone calls at this level are recorded and timed 15 minutes. The inmate may only make collect calls. Once an inmate has obtained a job they are moved to what is called the Modular unit. Here the rooms fit 4 to 6 men and are no longer locked cells. After they complete work, the rest of their day is free time. There phone calls stay the same except they are allowed 30 minutes instead of 15. Visits at this level for both employed and unemployed inmates are "contact" visits. There are rows of chairs in the visiting room and the seating arrangements alternates inmate, visitor, inmate, visitor. They are allowed only 2 visitors per visiting time and the visits are 2 and 1/2 hours long 3 times a week. At the beginning and end of a visit inmates are searched.

Minimum security-Minimum facilities in Massachusetts include: Shirley Minimum and Concord Farm. Inmates at this level have earned their right to be here by completing certain programs at the medium level, for having good behavior and for having only a certain amount of time left to their sentence. Here they also eat inside a chow hall and all inmates are required to work within the facility. Some inmates are chosen to go on outside work crews which are supervised. These crews clean up different areas in the community. Phone calls are still collect, recorded but are no longer timed. In most minimum facilities the rooms are no longer cells and after work the rest of the day is free time unless they have to attend a program such as AA or NA. They are allowed to go to the yard or gym as they please but are still not allowed into the community except for those on the supervised work crew. Visits are 6 days a week and can last up to 6 hours. The visits are "contact" visits and the visiting room has tables and chairs which the inmate and visitor can sit at. They are allowed up to 5 visitors per visiting day.

Pre Release- Pre Release facilities in Massachusetts include Boston State and Park Drive. Pre Release inmates have little time left to their sentence and pose very little if any danger to the community. At this level they are now allowed to go out in the community and find work, go to school, go to outside counciling and programs. To be out in the community they must fill out a form and have it approved by the superintendent. This form includes where they are going, how they are getting there, how long they will be there and when they will be back. This itinerary must be followed strictly. Those who do not follow it will be sent back to a medium security prison. As there's trips out into the community are not supervised, the DOC will send correctional officers to the inmates job or program randomly to make sure they are where they are suppose to be. They are not allowed to go home or to a friend or relatives house. Depending on the facility, they are allowed to work up to 60 hours a week and their check is sent to the DOC each week. The DOC will then take 10% of the gross income and put it towards room and board. They then give the inmate a budget check of up to $75 to pay for laundry, haircuts, transportation to and from work and for food at work or at the vending machines in the facility. The rest of the money is put into an interest baring account for when the inmate is released. Visits are "contact" visits and the inmate can have an unlimited amount of visitors. Visits are up to 9 hours long and there is an inside and outside visiting area. Phone calls are no longer timed or recorded and the inmate may now buy a calling card or dial direct on the payphone. Inmates at this level are given the maximum amount of freedom while still in DOC custody.

Other Terminology

Canteen- Canteen is a company from which inmates are allowed to buy clothing, electronics, food and cosmetics such as shampoo and soap. Canteen is utilized throughout all the security levels and is delivered on a weekly basis.

Classification- Classification is done about every 6 months- some facilities do it every 3 months. Here the inmate will see the class board that usually consists of 3 people. They will decide how much freedom, what programs and what security level the inmate belongs at.

Good Time- Good time is given to inmates for completing certain programs, for working and in the lower security levels..for simply being there. In Massachusetts the maximum amount of good time an inmate may get a month is 7 days. These days come off the bottom and top number of a sentence. For instance, if someone was given a 3 to 5 year sentence the 7 days would be taken off both the 3 years and the 5 years.

Parole- An inmate will see the parole board between 1 to 3 months before their Parole release date. The parole board will then decided if the inmate is ready to be released into the community or not. This decision is based on the crime the inmate is incarcerated for, the time they have left to serve, the programs they have completed, their conduct since they have been in, if they show remorse for their crime or not and where they are planning to parole to (i.e. the neighborhood, the house they plan on moving to). If an inmate is denied they will see the parole board again a year later. If approved, the inmate will be given a release date an assigned a parole officer who will keep a close eye on the inmate.

Protective custody- Those in protective custody are considered high risk inmates. Usually inmates incarcerated for certain sex crimes or those known to be in a gang are put into protective custody. They are never released into general population for their own safety and the safety of others.

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