Direct Supervision Model, New Standards

Prisons have undergone huge changes since the transition to the new justice system reference. Three major influences shaped the corrections system in the second part of 20th century.

1). After WWII, corrections saw a change of administration in favor of a bureaucratic method. The corrections field no longer tolerated patronage and personal gain but placed an emphasis on accountability. Priority was given to the selection and education of staff as well as the refinement of chain of commands, specializations in legal, accounting and medical planning and fiscal maintenance.

2). In 1965 Lyndon Johnson founded the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, to deal with national crimes and make recommendations on improvements for the courts and police. Quality staff was the main focus of the report on Corrections. Report recommended drastic changes to the selection of staff, their education, supervision, accountability, and supervision. The report recommended that offenders be given more community-based training instead of being incarcerated. It also advised upgrading education, vocational training and other aspects of the criminal justice system. The report led to the development of the American Correctional Association Commission on Accreditation’s first standards.

3). Prisoners began using the Civil Rights Act and habeas Corporation to bring successful litigations against prisons, challenging violations of federal civil right. The result was more prisons operating according to judicial orders.

Direct supervision is a product of all three factors: managerial functions; evolution of bureaucratic and judicial models. Direct Supervision places officers in constant, direct contact to inmates using a mix design elements. Staff training and management philosophy. This allows officers to familiarize themselves with inmates, allowing them to identify issues before they escalate. Because they are directly involved in the unit, the officers have more responsibility to supervise, organize and control the daily operation. Direct Supervision can be credited for improving inmate welfare, decreasing vandalism rates and creating a positive environment.

Direct Supervision required that prisons be completely redesigned. Local jails were rectangular buildings that ran along a straight line, with single cell placement at an angle. This meant that cells could only be monitored intermittently. The “Podular Remote”, or centrally located, design of cellsblocks was meant to improve control for officers by incorporating a central zone. This design however created a “us against them”, as bars and wall separated officers and inmates. Inmates became tense once officers entered “their’ territory. Direct supervision is a way to remove barriers. The control station is placed inside the inmate’s living quarters. The inmates are kept in the dayrooms, not in cells. Officers can intervene immediately if there is a problem, and the electronic surveillance system provides extra protection.

Contra Costa Prison (California), the first facility that incorporated Direct Supervision, opened in 1981. Federal Bureau of Prisons sponsored a competition involving three design studios in New York (the original site), Chicago (the second) and San Diego. The BOP wanted all three companies to come up designs similar. This model is still widely used today in the United States.

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