Aside from popular TV shows like Orange Is the New Black and Prison Break, have you ever seen what a real jail looks like and had the chance to step inside an actual jail cell?
If you attend Saint Leo University, you can get a front-row seat to such a unique aspect of the world that most rarely get to lay their eyes on.
Scaling the Jail
On Oct. 2, there were 11 students who had the opportunity to visit Falkenberg Road Jail, a full-scale jail in Tampa, Fla. that can house up to 4,200 inmates.
Throughout the complex, there are countless locked doors and closed hallways. One door doesn’t open until the other behind it closes, which helps maximize security.
In the large pod area of the jail facility, there is only 1 officer for every 72 inmates. There is an outside area exposed only to the sky for certain inmates to walk around outside and get some fresh air. Inmates are also given a basketball to play with, can watch TV, read books and a daily newspaper. If the inmates slip up, some of these privileges will be taken away from them.
In solitary confinement, One jail cell has a concrete slab, a toilet, a sink and a mirror. These cells are roughly 6 by 10 feet in size. There are two psych wards – one for males and the other for females – in which inmates live in individual cells.
Inmates receive three meals per day with bologna and cheese sandwiches for lunch every day, along with some unappetizing items for breakfast and dinner.
visitations must be done via a video conference. Typically, a friend or family member visiting an inmate must go to the jail and sit in front of a screen to talk with their loved one. However, some remote sessions allow inmates to communicate with loved ones completely remotely through a technology similar to Skype or FaceTime. The main reason that in-person visitations were done away with was to prevent others from bringing contraband to the inmates.
The facility consists of plenty of Razor wire, which is made of a material that does not allow anyone to scale the fences. Endless rows of surveillance cameras line the ceilings in many of the buildings.
“Trustees” are inmates on good behavior who can work toward getting out of jail sooner. Those who act up in jail can easily have months – or even a few years – added on to their original sentences.
“This is an experience you could never get at a university with class sizes that go well into the hundreds,” says Dr. Joseph Cillo, a Saint Leo criminal justice professor who takes students to the facility each semester.
Saint Leo Student Perspectives
Some of the students who visited the jail weighed in on the whole experience:
“I learned that when there is mutual respect between the officer and the inmates, there are little to no problems in the cells. I also learned that solitary confinement seems pretty inhumane. The windows are not at a height where the inmate can see outdoors, and if they were at a normal height, the window is not see-through. I'm assuming it's only for "natural light" purposes. I learned that some people in solitary confinement go to the bathroom next to the toilet. They are in their small cells for 22-23 hours per day.” – Veittoria Statuto
“Walking through the facility gave me a good sense of what these individuals go through and what kinds of things you’d see in your career if you went into criminal justice. Walking into the psych ward was like going into a dungeon. The smell was also terrible.” – Garrett Lischke
“They’re in these little lofts for months at a time. I was trying to imagine if I could handle being in there. I honestly can’t say if I would have the mentality to do it. It really flipped my perspective on things.” – Robert Merkel
“I saw the jail in a different light. I used to think that each person had an individual cell and were transported for meals or for visits, but they stay in a pod and don’t get a chance to leave. The most shocking part of the tour was heading in to the psych ward and seeing how different those people live. It smelled terribly and seemed like some strict, horrible conditions to keep these people safe from themselves or from the possibility of hurting others. All in all, I learned I would never survive a day in jail.” – Katie Greenleaf
“I felt as if these people live a totally different lifestyle than how it’s portrayed on TV. In the psych ward, I felt like those inmates looked haunted and like they didn’t have real human characteristics that you’d normally see in people on a daily basis. The biggest thing I learned is that they really do treat you based on how you behave. To get through jail and not be totally miserable is based on your behavior.” – Taylor Williams