Humble Beginnings: A Brief Introduction to Incarceration Policy

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

What is Incarceration Policy?

Incarceration Policy is the body of laws, policies, processes, and practices that found the judicial mechanism for punishing those who break the law.  I highlight the words “break the law” in particular as a means of demonstrating that those who are incarcerated are not necessarily those who commit offenses which we might call “evil” or “cruel”, though certainly these two categories are no mutually exclusive.

Incarceration Policy is key in determining how inmates are allowed to be treated, by what means they are able to access things like healthcare, education, resources, and especially the society outside of jail and prison walls.  Incarceration Policy determines the length of sentencing, the constitutional limitations inscribed by the words ‘cruel and unusual’, and a host of other facets that comprise the United States penal system.

Incarceration Policy is critical both to my study of the intersection of our penal system practices and the means by which we isolate and constrain the mentally ill, and to the understanding of how we define, practice, and make an exclusive good, access to freedom.


Federal Policy on Incarceration

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

13th Amendment, U.S. Constitution

Before we can begin to delve into the substance of Federal Policy on Incarceration, we must first grapple with the exemption we have given slavery in circumstances of “crime” and punishment.  As I stated before, “those who are incarcerated are not necessarily those who cause” the most egregious or unethical offenses against the law.  In fact, due to the systemic financial inequities of the United States system, it is an unfortunate rule with few exceptions that the more money one has, the more likely the system will treat one with leniency, if not eschewing one’s sentence altogether – and that is assuming a case against a wealthy offender makes it to trial at all.

Ignoring this facet of the U.S. Penal System for a moment (though we will certainly return to it in future posts), we next turn to the capacity for the government to dictate the terms of “crime and punishment”.

In particular, the federal policy on incarceration is – from what I have seen – primarily geared toward subsidizing prisons and providing funding to states for the management of their jail and prison systems.  I will, of course, do more research into this subject, but it would seem as though – at least at the federal level – the systems of incarceration and legal punishment are largely decentralized and relegated to the authority of state and local governments.


California Policy on Incarceration

Through the California Department of Corrections we find policies that center public safety and security as the main goal, with the successful reintroduction and integration into society for inmates coming in as a close priority.

The Adult Institutions, Programs, and Parole Regulations introduces us to the Chapter of Regulations that governs all jails and prisons in California, Title 15, Division 3, Chapter 1.  Perusing these articles listed a host of rules on topics ranging from food regulation to healthcare grievances, from inmate resources to appeals.  Ultimately it is clear that from this more centralized policy construction (relative its federal counterpart), the state has built a robust framework for its correctional system.


Orange County Policy on Incarceration

After doing some research and finding that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is chief in administering the Central Male and Female Jails as well as the intake facilities also located in Orange County, I have surmised that the state’s policies in Title 15 are what govern the Orange County Corrections System.  Knowing this, especially given the centralized nature of the Department of Corrections, is key.



The mentally ill know.
.     .    .   .  . ……………………….to imagine beyond………………………. . .  .   .    .      .

Do you have any questions you’ve been dying to ask me or any mental health topics you want me to cover? Do you have any comments or suggestions?  Let me know in the comments below!

I would love to share my experience with you! Get in touch with me if you are interested in hosting me as a speaker for your Mental Health workshop, conference, or other event.

Follow me on Twitter @akaclouise, on Instagram @aka.clouise on Facebook at/AKA.CLouise!

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