Jacksonville has a hard jail:
• No TV, no radio, no Internet.
• Few classes, no jobs.
• No prison yard and no sun. You can play basketball on concrete courts, but you'd better be able to dunk.
"Hard" is a technical, not a pejorative, term in criminal justice. It means a facility where security and safety come first, comfort and happiness second.
Contrast this with a soft lockup. Franklin County, Pa., has the snazziest jail I've ever seen. Inmates gather in a lobby fit for a resort hotel to drink espresso (ah!), to read uplifting periodicals and to watch educational television in high-def. Sunlight floods through a crystalline atrium.
Outside, inmates can work all day trimming grass and pruning roses. Inside, they attend 12-step meetings, chat up prison society visitors and enjoy music for every mood. Vendors deliver goody boxes of chocolates, meats and a fine selection of cheeses. School is in session every day. All this makes you want to rush up to Chambersburg, slap a cop and join the fun.
Other things occur in soft jails. Since visitors can sit with and touch inmates, they often arrive with cheeks and fannies stuffed with narcotics, knives and the occasional derringer. Using cellphones delivered by Rectum Express, inmates order hits on witnesses and shakedowns of other inmates' families. Inside, the homeboys, the carnales and the skinheads clique up, port arms and charge into battle. Forget about the cheese and the chocolates. Murder is always at the top of the menu.
Jacksonville's jail, by contrast, is rock hard. It's miserable for inmates, but good for them and their families, for several reasons.
There is extraordinarily little violence, considering the thousands of men and women jammed in there like Spam in the can. Corrections officers move inmates frequently between floors so they can't clique up, conspire and fight. Visitation occurs behind bullet-resistant glass, so the only thing visitors can pass to inmates is … More