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What is a Closed Category Prison: Where Escape is Impossible

Prisons are assigned security categories based on the threat level and escape risk of their inmate populations. Closed prisons house the highest security inmates requiring the most restrictive confinement. This article explains what defines a closed category prison and what life is like inside these maximum security facilities.

Prison Categories and Security Levels

Prison categories include:

  • Minimum security – Minimum custody facilities for low-risk inmates. More open, with minimal barriers.
  • Medium security – Moderately dangerous inmates. Balance of freedom and security.
  • Closed security – Maximum security housing the most dangerous prisoners. Restrictive confinement.

Closed prisons maintain the strictest security protocols to prevent unauthorized access, movement, violence, criminal activity, and escape attempts.

Inmates Housed in Closed Prisons

Closed category prisons house:

  • Convicted supermax offenders too dangerous for general population
  • Death row and high escape risk inmates in segregation
  • Terrorists, spies, and political prisoners requiring isolation
  • Gang leaders classified as ongoing security threats
  • High profile or celebrity prisoners needing added protection
  • Extremely violent offenders unlikely to integrate safely
  • Mentally unstable inmates prone to erratic behavior
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Assignment is based on security diagnostics, not the legal conviction. An inmate’s conduct factors more than their crime.

Identifying Features of Closed Prisons

Closed facilities contain reinforced security features like:

  • Double perimeter chainlink and electrified fencing
  • Observation and gun towers manned 24/7
  • Advanced surveillance camera systems
  • Airport-level exterior lighting systems
  • K-9 units patrolling grounds
  • Remote controlled doors/gates requiring clearance
  • Full body security scanners and metal detectors
  • Strip search rooms to detect contraband

The fortified environment prevents unauthorized entry or exit.

Restricted Inmate Movement and Privileges

In closed prisons, inmates face extreme restrictions including:

  • Confinement in single cells up to 23 hours a day
  • Little congregating with other prisoners
  • Constant handcuffing and escorting when not in cells
  • Limited items allowed in cells
  • Controlled showers on a strict schedule
  • Restricted visits and phone calls; all monitored
  • Minimal outdoor exercise in caged areas
  • No work opportunities or education programs
  • No personal effects like photos or electronics

Privileges like outdoor time, visits, or possession of items are highly limited and can be revoked.

Armed Correctional Officers

Closed prisons have high staff-to-inmate ratios. Officers:

  • Carry batons, pepper spray, tasers and firearms
  • Wear protective vests and riot gear
  • Patrol cell blocks in groups with attack dogs
  • Manning guard towers, security rooms and checkpoints
  • Escort prisoners in restraints to all activities
  • Conduct unscheduled, frequent cell searches for contraband
  • Enforce the prison’s strict conduct protocols
  • Are trained to use force to quell riots or attacks

Their presence intimidates inmates from challenging authority or security.

Rationale for Extreme Security Measures

Closed prisons aim to neutralize security threats. Looser environments could enable:

  • Attacks on guards, staff or other inmates
  • Taking hostages for escape attempts
  • Smuggling weapons, drugs and other contraband
  • Forming plans for criminal enterprises
  • Communication with accomplices on the outside
  • Riots or chaotic protests turning violent
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Controlling the highest risk prisoners with maximum security helps maintain systemwide order and safety.

Criticisms of Closed Prison Conditions

Rights advocates argue closed prisons:

  • Impose inhumane isolation and sensory deprivation
  • Worsen existing mental illnesses
  • Increase depression, self-harm and suicide
  • Provide insufficient mental health support
  • Enable abuses of power by guards
  • Deprive socialization needed for rehabilitation
  • Discriminate against mentally ill or neurodivergent inmates

Some call maximum security facilities cruel, unethical, and counterproductive. But authorities insist security outweighs these concerns.


Closed category prisons provide maximum security confinement for the highest threat prisoners within a correctional system. Their perimeter barriers, surveillance, restrictive protocols, and armed guards aim to neutralize internal dangers. However, critics argue that such extreme conditions fail to balance security with ethics and human rights. The debate surrounding closed prisons will continue as authorities weigh safety versus other priorities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are inmates assigned to closed prisons?

Assignment is based on security diagnostics assessing an inmate’s overall danger, escape risk, and risks of destabilizing other facilities. Conduct matters more than convictions.

How are closed prisons different than supermax prisons?

Supermaxes house only the highest security inmates, usually in permanent solitary isolation. Closed prisons may include some lower risk prisoners segregated from the supermax groups.

What are the main differences in guards at closed vs lower security prisons?

Closed prison officers carry weapons, work in groups with guard dogs, wear protective gear, and are trained in armed response to riots and attacks. They have authority to deploy chemical agents, tasers, and lethal force if needed.

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Can inmates progress from closed prisons to lower security?

In rare cases after years of good behavior they may transfer to medium security. But it is very unlikely most closed prison inmates will ever join general population.

Do closed prisons allow any family visitation?

Very limited non-contact visits separated by glass partitions may be allowed but require extensive screening and prior approval. Most communication is by monitored phone calls.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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