Panoptic Cell House in the Illinois Department of Corrections
In this blog I would like to shed light on the fact that there is a panoptic cell house in Illinois. Until learning about Faucault, panopticoms, and theories on
discipline I had no idea that this cell house in Illinois was designed to implement total power over the inmates it houses. First, I will describe the architectural design of the cell house and how
its shape is used to enact power over inmates. Then I will describe some day to day activities that take place in the prison and elaborate on how these activities are related to what Faucault describes as the control of activities in terms of
Before I elaborate allow me to give you a little background information on the prison I am referring
to. My blog is describingStatesville prison in Joliet Illinois. Statesville Correctional center is one
of the oldest operational prisons in Illinois and it houses over two thousand
inmates. Statesville is one of two maximum security prisons that houses general population inmates in Illinois.
In Statesville Correctional Center there is a cell house which is nicknamed the roundhouse. I argue that it is a panoptic prison. Like the name implies the round house is round.
Meaning each floor of the cell is built in a circle. In the center of the round house there is a large tower that extends all the way from the floor of the round house to the top floor.
Correctional officers are stationed at several locations throughout the tower. There are even correctional officers patrolling the upper level of thetower ,called the cat walk ,with high powered rifles.
As Faucault describes this environment creates a sense of hyper vigilance
because the inmates do not know if or when they are being watched and this in
turn makes them feel as if they are being watched all the time. The power is unverifiable because the inmate never really knows when he is being watched.
Next allow me to elaborate on some day to day activities in the round house and compare them to what
Faucault termed the control of activity. A normal day in the round house is as follows:
For the purposes of this blog I will describe the day of a person housed on one of the lower floors of the round house. The floor an inmate is housed on determines what his daily routine will be. It is the space not the people that determine the routine. Assuming one lives on the lower floors his first activity of the day will be the eight a.m. yard line. Yard lasts fifty minutes after which the inmate will be returned to his cell to await chow. Chow runs from approx. 10 a.m. until 12.pm. (what is on the daily menu determines how long it will take to run chow on a certain day. The more inmates that go to chow the longer it takes for everyone to eat. Also, before yard, after yard, and after chow count takes place. Count ,is as it specifies , is when
every inmate must be visible accounted for. Unless you have a special assignment
all inmates must be secured in their cells for count. For most of the inmates dinner, which is done the same way as lunch, is the last time the inmate will leave his cell. The round house
operates on a twenty two and two schedule. Meaning, the inmate is in his cell
twenty two hours per day and is allowed out of his cell for two hours per day. These activities relate to
the control of activity because there is a time table. The whole day is run on a schedule. Furthermore, there are artificially imposed time constraints on every part of the inmate’s day.
For example, the rules state that an inmate is allowed only ten minutes
to eat his meal. Artificially imposed time restraints also relate to Faucault’s concept of control of the activity.
The purpose of this blog was to shed light on some of the happenings in the Illinois Department of
Corrections. For example before reading Faucault and learning about the panoptic prison I had no idea that the shape of the prison was in itself a form of disciplinary power. Also I had no idea the structure of the day to day activities were forms of disciplinary power. I would just to bring to light some of the ways the Illinois Department of Corrections hold disciplinary power over the inmates. Did you know there was a panoptic prison in