Assigning Inmates to Prisons

Prison classification is a method of assessing inmate risks that balance security requirements with program needs.

Newly admitted inmates are transported from county jails to one of several prison receiving centers where the risk assessment process begins. There are separate reception centers for females, male youth, and adult males.

Upon admission, processing and evaluation of offenders begins. A series of evaluations are administered, including medical and mental health screenings. Prison classification specialists develop an individual profile of each inmate that includes the offender's crime, social background, education, job skills and work history, health, and criminal record, including prior prison sentences. Based on this information, the offender is assigned to the most appropriate custody classification and prison.

From this initial classification, inmate behavior and continuing risk assessments by prison staff will determine the inmate's progression through the various custody levels to minimum custody and eventual release.

Prison managers assign inmates to work, rehabilitative self improvement programs, and treatment. As inmates serve their sentences, the inmates who comply with prison rules, do assigned work, and participate in corrective programs, may progress toward minimum custody.

Inmates who violate prison rules are punished and may be classified for a more restrictive custody classification and a more secure prison. Inmates are then required to demonstrate responsible and improved behavior over time to progress from this status to less restrictive custody classifications and prisons.

Inmate Custody Levels

Inmates may be classified and assigned to one of five custodial levels; close, medium, minimum I, minimum II and minimum III.

The classification levels are in descending order of perceived public safety risks presented by the inmate. Inmates in close custody present the highest risk while inmates in minimum III generally present the least risk.

Within this mix of custody assignments, inmates also may be subject to various control statuses. The control statuses include restrictive housing for administative purposes (RHAP), restrictive housing for disciplinary purposes (RHDP), restrictive housing for control purposes (RHCP), and high-security maximum control (HCON).  Each of these control statuses further restricts inmate freedoms and privileges.

Assignment and removal of inmates from these statuses is generally at the discretion of higher level classification authorities in the state prison system. The imposition of these additional custody control measures are generally for the purpose of maintaining order in the prison, protecting staff safety or providing for inmate safety.