Chapter 1: Prisons: The Nexus of Technology, Security, Crime and Punishment

Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime. A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms.

As well as convicted or suspected criminals, prisons may be used for internment of those not charged with a crime. Prisons may also be used as a tool of political repression to detain political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and "enemies of the state", particularly by authoritarian regimes. In times of war or conflict, prisoners of war may also be detained in prisons.

Changi Prison Guard Tower

1.1 Space and Security

Prisons rely on various Generations of technology. Dependent on the level of sophistication of the facility and the level at which the prison is classified, the level of security ascribed to the prison facilities would differ.

Physically speaking, they are normally surrounded by fencing, walls, earthworks, geographical features, or other barriers to prevent escape. Multiple barriers, concertina wire, electrified fencing, secured and defensible main gates, armed guard towers, lighting, motion sensors, dogs and roving patrols may all also be present depending on the level of security. Remotely controlled doors, CCTV monitoring, alarms, cages, restraints, nonlethal and lethal weapons, riot-control gear and physical segregation of units and prisoners may all also be present within a prison to monitor and control the movement and activity of prisoners within the facility.

Even prior to its official declaration, the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) has been championing the release of prisoners. In a 2012 audio statement, “Destroying the Gates,” Baghdadi noted that “We remind you of your top priority, which is to release the Muslim prisoners everywhere, and making the pursuit, chase, and killing of their butchers from amongst the judges, detectives, and guards to be on top of the list.” The “Breaking of the Walls” campaign by Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi then began on 12 September 2012 with the release of 100 prisoners from Tikrit.

While there have been a number of instances of prison breaks in Indonesia in 2013, they were not conducted by IS. They were in part due to overcrowding and mismanagement of prison security. On 11 July 2013 at the Tanjung Gusta, Medan 200 escaped during a prison riot including Fadli Sadama, who was later caught in Malaysia. Fadli, a courier for Noordin Mohamed Top, was a member of Kumpulan Militant Indonesia (KMI). Subsequently, on 18 August 2013 in North Sumatra 80 escaped from prison. Thereafter on 20 August 2013 in West Aceh’s Meulaboh Prison, 9 prisoners escaped after they sawed through the prison bars. Moving forward, lax prison security coupled with increasing calls for freeing prisons both online and in the real world could push efforts at prison population reduction forward.

Similar efforts have been seen most recently in the Philippines by IS. On 27 August 2016 at about 5.30pm, a jail break took place at the Provincial Jail Compound, Marawi City, Lanao del Sur when approximately 20 armed men forcibly entered the jail bringing with them four RPGs on-board eight vehicles. The incident resulted in the escape of 30 prisoners. Securing prisons will continue to be a challenge where understaffed and overcrowded prisons generally contribute to a permissive environment for both recruitment and radicalisation. In this instance, space and elements of security work hand in hand. (Jerard, 2016)

Modern prison designs have sought to increasingly restrict and control the movement of prisoners throughout the facility while permitting a maximal degree of direct monitoring by a smaller corrections staff. As compared to traditional large landing-cellblock designs which were inherited from the 19th century and which permitted only intermittent observation of prisoners, many newer prisons are designed in a decentralised "podular" layout. Smaller, separate and self-contained housing units known as "pods" or "modules" are designed to hold between sixteen and fifty prisoners each and are arranged around exercise yards or support facilities in a decentralised "campus" pattern. A small number of corrections officers, sometimes a single officer, is assigned to supervise each pod.

Figure 6.1 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage

The pods contain tiers of cells arranged around a central control station or desk from which a single officer can monitor all of the cells and the entire pod, control cell doors and communicate with the rest of the prison. Pods may be designed for high-security "indirect-supervision", in which officers in segregated and sealed control booths monitor smaller numbers of prisoners confined to their cells. An alternative is "direct-supervision", in which officers work within the pod and directly interact with and supervise prisoners, who may spend the day outside their cells in a central "dayroom" on the floor of the pod. Movement in or out of the pod to and from exercise yards, work assignments or medical appointments can be restricted to individual pods at designated times and is generally centrally controlled.

Goods and services, such as meals, laundry, commissary, educational materials, religious services and medical care can increasingly be brought to individual pods or cells as well. Despite these design innovations, overcrowding at many prisons, particularly in the US, has resulted in a contrary trend, as many prisons are forced to house large numbers of prisoners, often hundreds at a time, in gymnasiums or other large buildings that have been converted into massive open dormitories. Lower-security prisons are often designed with less restrictive features, confining prisoners at night in smaller locked dormitories or even cottage or cabin-like housing while permitting them freer movement around the grounds to work or do activities during the day.

Prisons can be classified into various levels of security. With increasing levels of security, more and more forms of technology to control behaviour and prevent escape are utilised. These levels of security are given different names in different countries, but generally, they try to categorise criminals into how dangerous they are and how much control they need.

The broad categorisation of prisons from high security, medium security and low security prison complex can be ascribed by the various layers of security to the facility and the management of inmates within the custodial setting. It is important to note that these categorisations are not universal and countries have adapted the use of these multiple levels of security within the remit of their respective prison systems.

In the US, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, inmates are placed into one of five security levels. The inmates are assigned to a specific level of security based on their custody and classification score, which is initially calculated by the Bureau of Prisons’ Designation and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC). The classification score is given based on prisoner’s criminal history, history of violence, severity of current conviction, time remaining on sentence, disciplinary history, history of escape, educational level, and age amongst others. (Zuokis, Prisoner Resource, 2019)

The table below summarises the means of classification undertaken within the DSCC:

Minimum Security 0-11 Points (Male) / 0-15 Points (Female)

Also known as Federal Prison Camps (FPCs), minimum security prisons house inmates convicted of non-violent offences in dormitory-style housing. There are few (if any) fences, lower staffing levels and minimal violence. Sex offenders are precluded from placement at federal prison camps, so too are those with a history of escape or group demonstrations. Only those with less than 10 years remaining on their sentences and a very minimal history of violence are placed at camps.

Low Security 12-15 Points (Male) / 16-30 Points (Female)

Also known as Federal Correctional Institutions (FCIs), low security prisons also house inmates in dormitory-style housing, although they can have some history of violence. While all FCIs are surrounded by fences (and sometimes double rows of them), they usually lack the traditional spools of razor wire prevalent at higher security levels. Violence is also minimal at these prisons, and prisoners must have less than 20 years remaining on their sentences to be eligible. Sex offenders are permitted to be housed at low-security FCIs. Staffing levels are higher than at camps, but lower than at medium-security FCIs.

Medium Security16-23 Points (Male) / NA (Female)

Also known as Federal Correctional Institutions (FCIs), medium security prisons tend to house inmates in cells, and a number of these inmates do have a history of violence. All medium-security FCIs are surrounded by spools of razor wire and multiple fences, along with an armed perimeter vehicle that circles the prison night and day. Depending on the prison, violence can be prevalent and severe. Prisoners must have less than 30 years remaining on their sentences to be housed at medium-security FCIs. Most prisoners are permitted to be housed at medium-security FCIs. Staffing levels are higher than at low-security FCIs, but lower than at high-security federal prisons.

High Security24+ Points (Male) / 31+ Points (Female)

Also known as United States Penitentiaries (USPs), these are the highest regular security federal prisons. Inmates are housed in cells and most have a significant history of violence. These are some of the most violent prisons in the United States, where prisoners die each and every year due to gang and other group forms of violence. All high security federal prisons have either multiple reinforced fences or an actual wall surrounding the prison. Most also have gun towers. All types of prisoners are permitted to be housed in USPs, though some, such as sex offenders and informants, have a hard time staying due to violent acts perpetrated against them. As far as regular security federal prisons go, USPs have the highest staffing levels.

Administrative Security All Point Totals (Male) / All Point Totals (Female)

These prisons (also known as unclassified prisons), can be of any security level, and their specific missions can be varied.

The 6 levels of security listed below showcase the different levels of security parameters that have been put in place to vis-à-vis construction, design and measures aimed at managing inmate behaviour.

6th Level Security: This type of prison is meant for most dangerous types of criminals. These are mostly terrorists who are deemed to pose a threat to national security. These inmates have individual cells and are kept in lockdown for 23 hours per day. Meals are served through "chuck holes" in the cell door, and each inmate is permitted out of their cell for one hour of exercise per day, alone. They are permitted no contact with other inmates and are under constant surveillance via closed-circuit television cameras.

Figure 6.2 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage

5th Level Security: This is a custody level in which both design and construction as well as inmate classification reflect the need to provide maximum external and internal control and supervision of inmates primarily through the use of high security perimeters and extensive use of internal physical barriers and check points. Inmates accorded this status present serious escape risks or pose serious threats to themselves, to other inmates, to staff, or the orderly running of the institution. Supervision of inmates is direct and constant.

Figure 6.3 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage

4th Level Security: This level of security prisons has highly-secured perimeters (featuring walls or reinforced fences), multiple- and single-occupant cell housing, the highest staff-to-inmate ratio, and close control of inmate movement.

Figure 6.4 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage
Figure 6.5 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage

3rd Level Security: A custody level in which design and construction as well as inmate classification reflect the need to provide secure external and internal control and supervision of inmates. Inmates accorded to this status may present a moderate escape risk or may pose a threat to other inmates, staff, or the orderly running of the institution. Supervision remains constant and direct. Through an inmate's willingness to comply with institutional rules and regulations, increased job and programme opportunities exist.

Figure 6.6 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage

2nd Level Security: A custody level in which both the design and construction as well as inmate classification reflect the goal of returning to the inmate a greater sense of personal responsibility and autonomy while still providing for supervision and monitoring of behaviour and activity. Inmates within this security level are not considered a serious risk to the safety of staff, inmates or to the public. Programme participation is mandated and geared towards their potential reintegration into the community. Additional access to the community is limited and under constant direct staff supervision.

Figure 6.7 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage

1st Level Security: The Lowest Level of Security to which an inmate can be assigned directly. This type of Prison is typically a "Prison Farm", or other work-oriented facility, and most often houses petty or "White collar" criminals.

Figure 6.8 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage

Specific Security

This kind of prison does not follow from the levels of security mentioned above because its security is ad hoc and designed for a specific purpose. This kind of prisons houses, for example, the criminally insane and criminals undergoing hospitalisation or hospice care.

1.2 Management of Terrorist Inmates vs Criminal Inmates

In the face of a continued scourge of terrorism, governments have steadfastly reinvigorated efforts either with the attempts to create a new strategy or to improve current strategies undertaken to mitigate the threat of terrorism and political violence. Regional governments in Southeast Asia too have begun to re-evaluate present strategies in place to mitigate the threat of terrorism. The levels of security provide guidelines that countries can endeavour to adapt and follow.

In the Southeast Asian region (as with many parts of Europe and Africa), there is growing consensus that kinetic measures of apprehending terrorists, disrupting cells and neutralising imminent terrorist threats form a necessary but insufficient means of addressing the appreciable threat of terrorism. As such, governments have begun to re-evaluate present strategies to mitigate the threat of terrorism in the long run.

Amongst the endeavours undertaken, is the exploration of methods in particular rehabilitation and reintegration as almost a “neglected weapon of Counter Terrorism.” The European Commission (2006) refers to radicalisation as the “phenomenon of people embracing opinions, views and ideas that could lead to acts of terrorism. Terrorist ideology is a source of motivation, a means of recruitment and a framework for action. It provides legitimacy and justification for terrorist and extremists. If the politico-religious wave of terrorism is sustained through pervasive violent extremist ideologies, in response, the milieu of disengagement and deradicalisation has emerged as a strategy undertaken with the hope that many of those that were incarcerated on acts of terrorism would through continued engagement recant their ideologies and reintegrate back into mainstream society. At the crux, rehabilitation deals with an added layer of debunking extremist ideology while disengagement refers to the individual’s interest to disengage from violence, but still harbour extremist thought.

The structures of a successful and sustainable rehabilitation programme are generally built on several factors working in concert:

  1. Physical Security of the Corrections Facility
  2. Creation of a Nuanced Mechanism for Detainee Classification
  3. Development of Programmes for Rehabilitation and Reintegration
  4. Training Personnel to Implement the Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programmes

The complexity of the process should not be dismissed. As such, there is a need to ensure that whilst programmes are put in place, the prison system and the personnel involved in the function are in a positive and enabling environment. At the crux, deradicalisation “is a complex and fluid social process, which involves a number of push and pull factors motivating a gradual decrease in commitment and increase in quitting related behaviour.” (Koehler, 2016)

Whilst having a multi-pronged approach, countries are able to select modes of rehabilitation that best suit their culture and circumstance. Each country can select as many or as few of the modes (or even add a few more modes) that best suit their desired outcome – ensuring that those who successfully complete the programme are no longer a security threat to the state.

Regardless of whether prisoners sentenced for terrorist-related crimes are kept in separate prisons or wings or are dispersed across the prison system, the risk they may pose, including the risk of radicalising other prisoners, shall be evaluated individually before their allocation is defined and shall be reviewed at regular intervals. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2016a: 47) It is pertinent to bear in mind that while a prison restricts a terrorist’s ability to orchestrate acts of violence, it is not necessarily an effectively enforced ‘time out’ from radical activism. Rather, when the prison gate swings shut behind them, it opens a new door in front of them for spreading their message and methods. (Wilner 2010: 10)

1.3 The Panopticon

Figure 6.9 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage

The Panopticon was designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to (-opticon) observe (pan-) all prisoners without the incarcerated being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby allowing the guards and wardens to be omniscient and omnipresent. And, as the guards and wardens cannot be seen, they need not be on duty at all times, effectively leaving the watching to the watched.

The Panopticon was a prison noted for its use of physical space as an innovative form of surveillance. In this way, it used space as technology instead of relying on electronic or electrical technology like most of today's prisons. The ‘central guiding idea is that of arranging prisoners in a circle, watched by an all seeing eye at the centre’ (Stedman, 2007) “The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognise immediately. In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon; or rather of its three functions – to enclose, to deprive of light and to hide – it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two. Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap.” (Foucault 1977, 195-228)

The Panopticon was never built during Bentham's lifetime, but it has come to be seen as an important development in security, technology, crime and punishment. For instance, the design was invoked by Michel Foucault (in Discipline and Punish) as metaphor for modern "disciplinary" societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and normalise. Foucault proposes that not only prisons but all hierarchical structures like the army, schools, hospitals and factories have evolved through history to resemble Bentham's Panopticon.

The notoriety of the design today (although not its lasting influence in architectural realities) stems from Foucault's famous analysis of it.

Furthermore, the spirit and intention of the Panopticon, that is, having a small number of invisible "guards" watching over a large number of highly visible "inmates" have been internalised by security technology specialists today. Electronic and electrical technology has allowed for the deployment of panoptic structures invisibly throughout society. Surveillance by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in public spaces is an example of a technology that brings the gaze of a superior into the daily lives of the populace.

Furthermore, a number of cities in the United Kingdom, including Middlesbrough, Bristol, Brighton and London have recently added loud-speakers to a number of their existing CCTV cameras. They can transmit the voice of a camera supervisor to issue audible messages to the public.

Despite the restrictions present, the growing security challenge was in the presence of continued challenges as inmates attempt to push boundaries. Anyone in jail can tell you that there are ways around any restriction. While the classical way would just be by shouting under the door, through the back-yard, through the cages in the backyard, that’s pretty much the easiest way. It is very well organised in there by the brothers, by the inmates themselves. (Rubinsztein-Dunlop, 2016)

Even on the Internet, which has been praised for its democratic potential and openness, “Panopticon-like” observation is actually at work. ISPs are able to track users' activities, IP addresses can be easily captured without the need for elaborate software, and user-generated content means that daily social activity may be recorded and broadcast online.

Figure 6.10 Source: ©2010 QuarterFlash Advantage