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Merging history and technology.

Nestled along the Missouri River, the Leavenworth U.S. Penitentiary (USP) is both a beautiful, historical artifact and a fully functioning correctional facility. USP Leavenworth came into existence through an act of Congress in 1895, and the facility was officially opened in 1906 after a decade of construction. The "New Penitentiary," as it was called, was seen as a marvel of custodial architecture. The facility was a bold attempt at a completely self-contained prison, putting all the necessary facilities within a 35-foot high wall, extending nearly as far below ground as above, encircling 16 acres. Included within the walls of the prison were a power plant, a hospital and, for the first time in history, a school. Today, "The Big Top" continues to house more than 1,800 inmates and serves as a key component of the federal prison system. Needless to say, the technology of prison construction as well as technology that aids in the management of information and offenders has advanced greatly since the "New Penitentiary" was built (with much of that technology being incorporated into the operations of the penitentiary).


Corrections officials around the country struggle to adapt structures that were build in different eras for use today. USP Leavenworth is certainly one of the most extreme examples, but there are numerous other prisons around the country that have successfully managed to adapt to today's technological environment. Further, there are buildings and facilities being used by community corrections programs that were not designed for correctional purposes. Those operating these facilities have used technologies to create safe, efficient environments for offenders.

Technology is defined as the technical means people use to improve their surroundings; a knowledge of using tools and machines to complete tasks efficiently. Society uses technology to control the world in which we live. Technology is people using knowledge, tools and systems to make their lives easier and better. Through technology, people communicate better and work more efficiently and effectively.

Technology enhances corrections at all levels by reducing costs while improving security and the effective monitoring of offenders. Technology can be used in all types of correctional environments, but it must be adapted to meet the specific needs of those it serves. Correctional agencies should make use of the latest technologies to enhance the performance of their duties and responsibilities.

Technology solutions must be incorporated into the design and construction of new facilities as well as integrated into the fabric of historic facilities, such as the 99-year-old USP Leavenworth. The use of technology can be used to improve information management, monitoring and surveillance systems, perimeter security, communications and internal detection systems.

Technology is also used to manage information about offenders for classification and programming purposes. Technology allows information to follow offenders throughout their incarceration and into the probation/parole fields. Technology helps us evaluate the effectiveness of programs while also ensuring that offenders are matched with service providers that offer the types of programming and support that is needed for the successful re-integration of an individual back into the community.

The American Correctional Association strongly believes that technology enhances correctional operations and makes correctional facilities safer and more efficient. Technology has revolutionized the corrections profession. Even as we continue to use facilities built in a different time, we can use technology to ensure that correctional facilities are operated efficiently and effectively and in a manner that enhances safety and security for the public, staff and offenders.

By James A. Gondles, Jr., CAE

Executive Director

American Correctional Association
COPYRIGHT 2005 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorial; U.S. Penitentiary, management of correction facility
Author:Gondles, James A., Jr.
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Previous Article:Welcome new members.
Next Article:The evolution of corrections technology.

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