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MUSEUM

MEMORIAL

JAILS AND PRISONS


    
In the past year 3.7 million men and women (as well as juvenile offenders) were guests of a city, county, state or federal jail. Not all were as clean and neat as this "holding cell."

     We hope that you never, ever have to spend even a few hours behind a prison cell and that this simply reminds you of the importance of your liberty. Jail cells cost about $40,000 per year per offender. This would include the cost of guards, food and the efforts to train prisoners for their return to the society that sent them to jail.

     On a local level many police departments have what is known as a "drunk tank" or overnight cell. This would be a place to keep someone who would be bonded out in a few hours or simply needed to sober up. It is rare and expensive to keep someone in a city jail for more than a few hours.

     Most persons charged with crimes are taken to one of more than 3,000 county jails where they can await trial or posting of a bond that guarantees their appearance. Persons who serve less than one year may be kept in a county jail.

     When you hear a judge say one year, the actual time served would be more likely three months. The balance is deducted for good behavior and probation. Even a life term can be only seven years with some exceptions.

     We have also taken the opportunity to show what a jail cell looks like in some of the nations outside of the United States. Stone walls, straw for a bed, fish heads for your one meal per day, or even worse.

     Correctional officers who are trained to handle prisoners are very brave men and women. They spend eight hour shifts inside the jail with no firearms for self defense and supervise from 50 to 100 inmates at a time. Jail officers must be able to keep the jail trouble-free and watch prisoners who might try to kill themselves or be killed by other prisoners. Every item in a jail is a potential weapon.

     You are invited to take photos in the cells and the doors do open and you can walk in and out. Please use care - especially with children.

     If you are thinking of a career in law enforcement, the biggest industry growth at this time is in new jails being built to house more and more offenders.

As one inmate said: "Life is a beautiful word except when used in a sentence."