U.S. Correctional System

The U.S. Correctional System Defined

Federal and state criminal justice systems most commonly use the term “corrections” as the replacement for “penology” when referring to the network of agencies that supervise individuals in a state of incarceration, rehabilitation, parole or probation. Accordingly, the term “correctional facility,” has become the substitute to “penal institution.”

If the term "corrections" seems broad it's because the correctional system is responsible for overseeing a wide array of programs- far more than what it is usually given credit for. If you ask most people about the role of the U.S. Correctional System, most would say that it is responsible for monitoring inmates in prison, but would not recognize that it also handles offenders who are conditionally released, as well as those who are merely issued penalties that do not require imprisonment but who still require legally prescribed supervision.

Correspondingly, the role of the corrections officer is very diverse. Overseeing the confinement of inmates who are serving their sentences is their primary role, but their expanded responsibilities typically include the reform and rehabilitation of sentenced offenders, organizing educational opportunities, and offering counseling in preparation for reentry into society.


Incarceration is synonymous with jails and prisons, and other correctional facilities that detain individuals who are involved in perpetrating crimes. Generally, persons who are booked in these institutions are called inmates.

The United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, not necessarily because it has an entirely dysfunctional criminal justice system. The logical reason for this is because of the transparency in reporting, unlike some countries that do not truthfully reveal incarceration statistics.

JailsBy definition, jails are containment areas for suspected offenders who are awaiting trial or sentencing. These individuals are not necessarily guilty of any crime. Many jailed persons are eventually found not guilty of any crimes and ordered released by the courts.

PrisonsUnlike jails, prisons are established for convicted felons. These institutions are maintained for both punishment and reform. Prisons have several security classifications (High, Medium, Low, Minimum) that typically corresponds to the seriousness of a convicted offenders' crime, their demonstration of intent and their capacity to harm others (such as inmates and correctional personnel) during incarceration.

Solitary Confinement- In situations where inmates become violent and pose a threat to others, solitary confinement provides a remedy. This involves placing inmates, who exhibit predatory behavior, in isolated cells that cut off communication with other people.

Community Supervision

Community supervision is either a post-incarceration phase or an outright alternative to incarceration, which has become costly to society. It is part of the sentence, and its administration takes place for the entire duration prescribed by the courts.

The following are terms related to community supervision:

  1. Parole
  2. Probation
  3. Recidivism

Parole- Inmates granted parole status are conditionally released from prison, and are referred to as parolees. Their limited freedom requires them to satisfy requirements, as mandated by law, which include the maintenance of good behavior and their periodic reporting to supervising corrections officers or other prescribed persons of authority. Failure to do so could result in their return to prison.

Probation- Sentenced offenders are not necessarily incarcerated, and the decision on this depends on the courts. On one hand, there are convicted felons who are ordered to serve part of their sentences in prison, and then outside “on probation.” On another, there are those who do not serve time in prison at all, but remain under community supervision. Either case grants convicted felons conditional liberty or provisional freedom subject to periodic evaluation and restrictions similar to those of parolees.

Recent developments have involved the use of electronic tracking devices, which are attached to individuals on probation, to monitor activities and check on the behavior of individuals on probation. The technology has somewhat eased the burden of incarceration, as well as the frequency of face-to-face meetings with supervising corrections officers.

Recidivism- Recidivism relates to convicted felons' return to their criminal ways. This phenomenon is not uncommon, considering factors like predisposition to violence, proclivity to break the law, and the external environment. Commonly, recidivists commit crimes against property (particularly theft and burglary) because they are challenged with limited prospects for employment and decent living conditions. Many recidivists are discriminated against due to their criminal history, and this is among outside factors that drive them to engage in illegal activity.

REMEMBER- Like incarceration, community supervision is part of the punishment and reform process of sentenced offenders. Violating its provisions, such as failing to report to the supervising corrections officer, is considered a crime.

50 State Departments of Correction

DepartmentMailing AddressPhone Number

1. Alabama Department of Corrections

301 S. Ripley Street
P.O. Box 301501
Montgomery, AL 36130- 1501
(334) 353-3883

2. Alaska Department of Corrections

550 West 7th Avenue
Suite 1800
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3570
(907) 269-7397

3. Arizona Department of Corrections

1831 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85007
(602) 542-5497

4. Arkansas Department of Corrections

P.O. Box 8707
Pine Bluff, AR 71611-8707

5. California Department of Corrections

9838 Old Placerville Road
Suite B
Sacramento, CA 95827
(866) 232-5627

6. Colorado Department of Corrections

2862 S Circle Dr
Colorado Springs, CO, 80906
(719) 579-9580

7. Connecticut Department of Corrections

24 Wolcott Hill Road
Wethersfield, CT 06109
(860) 692-7480

8. Delaware Department of Corrections

245 McKee Road
Dover, DE 19904
(302) 739-5601

9. Florida Department of Corrections

501 South Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2500
(850) 488-5021

10. Georgia Department of Corrections

300 Patrol Road
Forsyth, GA 31029

11. Hawaii Department of Public Safety

801 Dillingham Blvd.
Box 100 & 200
Pearl City, HI 96782
(808) 586-5500

12. Idaho Department of Corrections

1299 N. Orchard St., Suite 110
Boise, ID  83706
(208) 658-2000

13. Illinois Department of Corrections

1301 Concordia Court
P.O. Box 19277
Springfield, IL 62794-9277
(217) 558-2200 x 2008

14. Indiana Department of Corrections

302 W. Washington Street
Room E-334
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(866) 362-4473

15. Iowa Department of Corrections

510 E 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319

16. Kansas Department of Corrections

714 SW Jackson
Suite 300
Topeka, KS 66603
(785) 296-3317

17. Kentucky Department of Corrections

275 East Main Street
P.O. Box 2400
Frankfort, KY 40602-2400
(502) 564-4726

18. Louisiana Department of Corrections

504 Mayflower Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
(225) 925-6006

19. Maine Department of Corrections

25 Tyson Drive 3rd Floor
State House Station 111
Augusta, ME 04333-0111
(207) 287-2711

20. Maryland Department of Corrections

6776 Reisterstown Road
Baltimore, MD 21215
(410) 585-3300

21. Massachusetts Department of Corrections

50 Maple Street, Suite 3
Milford, MA 01757
(508) 422-3300

22. Michigan Department of Corrections

206 E. Michigan Ave
Grandview Plaza
P.O. Box 30003
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 335-1426

23. Minnesota Department of Corrections

1450 Energy Park Drive, Suite 200
St. Paul, MN  55108-5219
(651) 361-7200

24. Mississippi Department of Corrections

633 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39202
(601) 359-5600

25. Missouri Department of Corrections

2729 Plaza Drive
P.O. Box 236
Jefferson City, MO 65102
(573) 751-2389

26. Montana Department of Corrections

5 S. Last Chance Gulch
P.O. Box 201301
Helena, MT 59620-1301
(406) 444-3930

27. Nebraska Department of Public Safety

P.O. Box 94661
Lincoln, NE 68509-4661
(402) 471-2654

28. Nevada Department of Corrections

5500 Snyder Ave
P.O. Box 7011
Carson City, Nevada, 89701
(775) 887-3285

29. New Hampshire Department of Corrections

105 Pleasant Street
PO Box 1806
Concord NH 03302-1806 
(603) 271-5600 

30. New Jersey Department of Corrections

Whittlesey Road
PO Box 863
Trenton, NJ 08625
(609) 292-4036

31. New Mexico Department of Corrections

4337 NM 14
Santa Fe NM 87508
(505) 827-8645

32. New York Department of Corrections

1220 Washington Ave
Albany, New York 12226-2050
(518) 457-8126

33. North Carolina Department of Corrections

4201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4201
(919) 716-3800

34. North Dakota Department of Corrections

3100 Railroad Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58501
(701) 328-6390

35. Ohio Department of Corrections

770 West Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio 43222
(614) 387-0588

36. Oklahoma Department of Corrections

3400 Martin Luther King Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73111-4298
(405) 425-2500

37. Oregon Department of Corrections

2575 Center St. NE
Salem, OR 97301-4667
(503) 945-9090

38. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
(717) 728-5357

39. Rhode Island Department of Corrections

40 Howard Avenue
Cranston, RI 02920
(401) 462-1000

40. South Carolina Department of Corrections

4444 Broad River Road
P. O. Box 21787
Columbia, SC 29210
(302) 739-5601

41. South Dakota Department of Corrections

3200 East Highway 34
c/o 500 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
(605) 773-3478

42. Tennessee Department of Corrections

320 Sixth Avenue North
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0465
(615) 741-1000

43. Texas Department of Public Safety

P.O. Box 13084
Austin, TX 78711
(512) 475-3250

44. Utah Department of Corrections

14717 S. Minuteman Drive
Draper, UT 84020
(801) 545-5500

45. Vermont Department of Corrections

426 Industrial Ave
Williston, VT 05495
(802) 951-5003

46. Virginia Department of Corrections

P.O. Box 26963
Richmond, VA 23261-6963
(804) 674-3000

47. Washington Department of Corrections

7345 Linderson Way SW
Tumwater, WA 98501-6504
(360) 725-8213

48. West Virginia Department of Corrections

P.O. Box 850
100 High Street
Glenville, WV 26351
(304) 462-3044

49. Wisconsin Department of Corrections

3099 E. Washington Avenue
P.O. Box 7925
Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7925
(608) 240-5000

50. Wyoming Department of Corrections

1934 Wyott Drive
Suite 100
Cheyenne, WY  82002
(307) 777-7208