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Jail Is More Than You See On TV

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After being classified and put into general population, the inmates don't have much to do to pass the time; an average day for an inmate is not what reality television programs portray, it's much more boring. Some jails have satellite or cable, but watching TV all day isn't as much fun as it sounds, not when you can't leave during commercials. Let's go to jail.

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Two Types Of Jails

To imagine what it's like during the day of an inmate, you should try to imagine what the living arrangement's are like. What most people see on television about county jails and serving arrest warrants usually only shows the public what the "booking in" process looks like. "Booking" is the period of time from when an inmate is brought to a jail or local prison to the time they make it to either a classification cell where they have to wait a certain period of time to be cleared by the medical department or general population where they will probably be staying for the duration of their stay.

two rows of inmate cellsThe two most common layouts for jails are direct and indirect supervision. Direct supervision is where multiple inmates sleep and live in a large, wide open, dorm like area with a guard who is physically present. Indirect supervision is what most people expect; one or two-man cells which are opened and closed to control the population from a central location that can see a group of different living areas at the same time but not inside the cells. The living/dining area is called a "dayroom" which may be partially surrounded by the cells or are connected to the cells by connecting halls or "sally ports". In both situations, inmates are living in the exact same conditions day in and day out for what may be months at a time, indirect supervision at least allows for more privacy because prisoners who have constant access to their cells may also be able to close themselves off a bit, away from other inmates.

An Inmates Daily Routine

Sleeping and eating is the primary activity of most inmates but at some point, everyone has to go to bed and it's "Lights Out". Morning hours usually consist of an early breakfast that arrives to wake inmates between 5 to 8 am. Depending on the facility, breakfast is followed by more sleeping while a few "early birds" may exercise or watch television, enjoying the quiet that won't last long. This is also the time when most jails start different services for inmates that can include medical, dental and reclassification.

Lunch is served, usually 4-5 hours after breakfast. By this time, more inmates are awake and finding it's getting harder to fall back to sleep. This is when the volume in the room increases; people start interacting more, games start getting played, jokes and laughter and finally someone turns up the TV. From about this time on there is no way to hold a sane thought in ones head; the din and roar of a dayroom is much like being in a mall during Christmas and just as constant.

Dinner arrives somewhere before 5pm which will be the last meal of the day unless an inmate has money in his or her commissary account, which allows for the purchase of additional food items. Access to the living area may extend until the later hours but most county jails either send prisoners to bed for "lights out" or to their cells to be locked in before midnight. At this point, the cycle starts again - the exact same cycle as yesterday and you can bet it's going to be the same tomorrow. With the amount of boring, inactivity in the life of an inmate coupled with the company they keep and surroundings, being in jail is definitely not as cool as it looks on TV.

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