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The 13 types of prisons (and their psychic effects)

The 13 types of prisons (and their psychic effects)

April 28, 2024

Prisons or prisons are institutions authorized by the government to imprison and isolate society to those individuals who have disobeyed the law. Prisoners are locked up and deprived of their liberty for months, years and, in some cases, their entire lives.

Although all prisons have the same objective, they can be classified in different ways.

The penitentiary system varies from one country to another

The penitentiary system is different depending on the country, and in some cases it can be complex. The army has its own judicial system and minors do not have the same treatment as adults. Although the concept of "prison" is very abstract, its characteristics depend to a large extent on the legal, political and social context of each region, and there may be great differences between the way in which countries determine the functioning of these institutions.


In the United States, for example, there are many jurisdictions (federal or state) and different consequences for prisoners than in Spain, as is the case of the death penalty. On the other hand, in Spain, the penitentiary centers differ according to the different types of prisoners' life regimes. The objective with which the state legitimizes its use is the search for order and security for the vast majority of inhabitants.

How incarceration affects prisoners

Prisoners are deprived of their freedom. The situation they live in and the behavioral deprivation to which they are subjected make their stay in prison provoke different physical and psychological consequences at various levels:


  • Biological : the deprivation of liberty can cause an increase in the instinct of attack by not being able to flee. It also causes problems of sexual or sensory deprivation problems (vision, hearing, ...). On the other hand, at certain ages a state of clear isolation can cause serious alterations in development, although this does not happen in the prisons of democratic states.
  • Psychological : The psychological effects are a reality for inmates with problems of self-esteem, drug use, anxiety, learned helplessness, dependence, etc. In addition, if they are used for many days in a row, the isolation cells suppose a deficit of sensory stimulation that in other contexts has been seen to be extremely harmful and that can generate the breeding ground for puffing up psychiatric disorders . Some of these findings were made decades ago by monkey experimentation by Harry Harlow.
  • Social : family problems, social and labor isolations, social learning problems, skills to relate to others and stigmatization. Especially this last element is crucial when learning new habits when leaving prison; A strongly stigmatized person will hardly find work and will be marginalized at an informal level.

As the investigations show, this type of detrimental effects for the inmates are associated to the time of condemnation . That is, the longer in prison, the worse consequences.


Types of prisons

However, What types of prisons are there? What are the different kinds of prisons? Below you can see the different types of prisons there are:

According to the penitentiary regime

The penitentiary system is the process by which the prisoner passes in compliance with his sentence. There are three degrees: first degree or closed regime, second degree or ordinary regime, third degree or open regime .

1. First degree prison

The modules or prisons of first degree are for those subjects more dangerous and maladjusted . They are regulated in art. 90.1 LOGP (General Penitentiary Organic Law) and there are two classes:

  • Closed-regime centers or modules: for inmates with maladjustment to common regimes.
  • Special departments: for those who provoke altercations. For example: insulation modules.

2. Second degree prison

In the ordinary regime, there are convicts of the second degree , ungraded inmates and detainees and prisoners. In these types of prisons there are mandatory activities (hygiene and personal hygiene, cleaning and order of the cell). The day starts at 7:30 and at 00:00 the lights go out.

3. Third degree prison

The open regime is for convicted persons, classified in the third degree, who can continue their treatment in semi-freedom . This is necessary so that the individual can achieve a normal coexistence but with the necessary rigid controls.

This type of regime can be carried out in three different penitentiary structures:

  • The Centers of Social Insertion : independent centers for third-degree inmates.
  • The Open Sections : departments that are part of a multipurpose prison, especially destined
  • Dependent Units : residences that are within a community and are managed by public or private institutions.

US Penitentiary Centers

In the United States there are different types of prisons

Local jails

This type of jails are for a short-term stay . They are local and multitudinous. They tend to be for those people who have just entered the criminal justice system.

Federal and state prisons

In the United States it is possible to find federal prisons, whose jurisdiction It is the responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the state ones, for more serious crimes and crimes .

1. Federal criminal institutions

They are prisons for those criminals who have committed serious crimes (embezzlement, fraud ...) but who they are not classified as dangerous . They are prisons of minimum security.

2. Federal prisons for medium security

They are medium security institutions, which usually contain security perimeters and armed guards . They are the infrastructures that are most used to imprison prisoners.

3. High security prisons

Destined to violent criminals . The offenders are dangerous people, so they need more control than the prisoners of the previous prisons. They are designed to establish several layers of security and insulation between the exterior and the most protected areas of these architectural complexes, so that the central parts are practically hermetic.

4. State prisons

State prisons are for those convicts who have carried out very serious crimes and state crimes . There are different types: for women, for men, for maximum security, etc. The security of these complexes is exceptional, dedicating a great investment to her given the seriousness of the crimes of those who remain there.

5. Death Row

The corridor of death is the denomination received by cells destined for those prisoners who have committed very serious crimes and who, in addition, they are serving the death penalty and are awaiting execution .

Other types of prisons

There are other types of prisons, for example, for minors, or psychiatric ones.

1. The dungeon

The dungeon is a cell that It is located in the same police station or barracks . It is used to imprison briefly the subjects who have been arrested, especially for a later trial. A detained person You can spend here up to 72 hours .

2. Juvenile Correctional

People who have been arrested and do not reach the age of majority they must serve a sentence in special centers, not in adult prisons.

3. Psychiatric prison

The psychiatric prison It is usually a hospital penitentiary center where subjects who are serving a sentence suffer from mental illness.

4. Military prison

They are the centers where it is sent to the soldiers, officers and non-commissioned officers of the army to comply with the sentence for breaching the military criminal code. This differentiation is an evidence of the special importance that the State gives to the security bodies that ensure the maintenance of power.


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