A special thank you to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) for allowing MCASA to utilize PCAR’s advocacy document entitled Commonly Used Terms in Prison (by Hallie Martyniuk, 2013) to create its own Prison Rape Elimination Act terms resource for Maryland rape crisis centers.  PCAR’s original document and other resources are available at pcar.org.

Commonly Used Terms in Prison

Administrative Segregation — A status of confinement for non-disciplinary reasons that provides closer supervision, control and protection than is provided in general population.  Correctional facilities may utilize administrative segregation to prevent escape, medical or mental health reasons, or if an inmate does not possess the ability to conform to rules.[1]

Boot Camp — Highly structured, short-term prison treatment programs modeled after military basic training. These programs emphasize physical exercise, strict supervision and discipline, and are designed for young, first-time offenders.

Capital Case — An inmate physically committed to the department under a sentence of Capital Punishment (death sentence), pending sentencing under a jury recommendation for Capital Punishment, or whose sentence of Capital Punishment has been vacated, but is awaiting resentencing where a sentence of Capital Punishment may be re-imposed.

Care, Custody, and Control — The main mission of the correctional facility; corrections officers must maintain this at all times.

Commissary/Outside Purchases — The facility commissary is a store located inside the facility specifically for inmates. It carries a wide variety of items ranging from candy bars to televisions. This includes personal care items such as shampoo, soap, and toothpaste. Depending on the facility, an inmate may visit the commissary during certain times and purchase a limited amount of items.

Contraband — Any item possessed by an inmate or found within the facility that is illegal by law or expressly prohibited by those legally charged with the administration and operation of the facility or program (examples may include money, cell phones, weapons, drugs, alcohol, extra un-issued razors, soda bottles/tops, etc.).

Custody Level — Refers to the degree of staff supervision and control necessary to monitor the behavior of an inmate. Custody levels are as follows: (1) Pre-Release; (2) Minimum security; (3) Medium security; (4) Maximum security/Supermax/Multi-level; (5) Administrative. The Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center (MRDCC) in Baltimore classifies male custody levels. The Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center within the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW) in Jessup classifies female custody levels. The reception centers are classified as administrative security, which means they have multiple security levels.[2]

Custody Level Override — A classification action that requests a custody designation and a facility placement assignment more or less restrictive than the inmate’s scored custody designation.

Department, DPSCS, or DOC — The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (or Department of Corrections)

Detainer — Refers to a request filed by a criminal justice agency with the facility in which an inmate is incarcerated, asking the facility either to hold the inmate for the agency or to notify the agency when release is imminent. Detainers are usually based on outstanding criminal charges, outstanding parole or probation violations, or additional sentences already imposed against the inmate.

Disciplinary Hearing — When staff determines that an inmate has violated a rule of conduct, the correctional facility serves notice on the inmate and holds a hearing.

Disciplinary Segregation — This occurs when an inmate is isolated from the general population for punishment purposes or violation of a rule.[3]  Inmates receive meals in their cells and visiting privileges may be restricted.

Maryland DNA Collection Act — A state law that authorizes state and local law enforcement to collect DNA evidence from convicted felons or anyone arrested for a crime of violence, which includes rape and a sexual offense in the first or second degree.

Facility Manager — The Superintendent of a State Correctional Institution or State Regional Correctional Facility.

Grievance — A formal written complaint by an inmate related to a problem encountered during the course of his/her confinement.

Indigent Inmate — If an inmate has less than $4.00 in his/her active account for 30 days, he/she may be indigent.[4]

Life Sentence — A court sentence for the balance of a person’s life for conviction such offenses as first degree murder and rape. Generally, an inmate sentenced to life in prison is not eligible for parole until he/she has served 15 years of his/her sentence.[5]

Lock-Down — Securing a correctional facility or unit by restricting prisoner movement to their housing area.

Maximum Sentence — The longest period of time a convicted individual may be sentenced.

Minimum Sentence — A date set by court sentence for the earliest consideration for parole privileges.

Misconduct — A written report completed in response to a violation of a formal rule or regulation by an inmate in the custody of the department.

Misconduct Hearing — A hearing held in the prison to determine if a misconduct report is substantiated and, if so, what discipline the inmate will receive.

Non-Contact Visit — A visit in which the inmate and the visitor are not permitted to be in physical contact and are generally separated by a physical barrier.

Office of Treatment Services — DPSCS office responsible for the provision of treatment to offenders under the custody and care of the department.  The Office of Inmate Health Services, Mental Health, Social Works Services, and Substance Abuse Treatment Services units provide these services.[6]

Operations – Corrections — This division of the MPSCS that comprises 27 prisons and pre-lease facilities through Maryland.

Parole — Discretionary and conditional release of an offender into the community to continue serving the sentence under supervision by an agent of the Division of Parole and Probation.  The Maryland Parole Commission determines whether inmates serving a sentence of six months or more are suitable for release.[7]

Parolee — An individual who has been paroled from a correctional facility.

Parole Officer — A person who supervises offenders paroled from prison.

Reclassification — The yearly review of an inmate’s current custody level, misconducts, program behavior, and escapes in order to determine a custody score and custody level.

Restitution — money that an offender must pay to a victim for the costs of the crime, which can include medical bills and mental health services.

Revocation —An administrative decision ending a parole because the offender violated the conditions of parole. An offender is entitled to a hearing before a decision to revoke the supervision period is made.

Special Visit — The inmate’s lawyer and persons on official business can visit the inmate without being on an inmate’s visiting list and will not be counted as a visit. A certified religious visitor must be recorded on an inmate’s visiting list, but can visit the inmate without being counted as a visitor in the allowable maximum of 15 visitors.[8]

Technical Violation — A violation of parole not involving a violation of the law.

Unit Management Team — The individuals assigned to operate a housing unit with the responsibility for security, risk management, and program delivery.

Youthful Offender —A youthful inmate under the Prison Rape Elimination Act is any person under the age of 18 who is under adult court supervision and incarcerated or detained in a prison or jail.

Zero Drug Tolerance Policy — A policy that states that no drug possession or use will be tolerated in state prison facilities.


There are three mistakes in language and accuracy of the information within the paragraph below.  See if you can identify them before reading answers.[9]

The inmate screamed, “Yo, I need to use the toilet, let me outta here!” Within a few minutes, the prison guard unlocked the cell door and escorted the inmate to the bathroom. When the inmate came out of the bathroom he and the guard spent a few minutes talking. The guard knew the prisoner had been upset over problems with his wife and he asked how things were going. The prisoner was grateful that the guard showed an interest in his family life and spent the next few minutes telling him about his concerns that his wife is not being faithful to the marriage and that she is not spending enough time with their kids.  After describing his situation to the guard, the inmate asked him about his son, who he knew was trying to get into college that year and was hoping to be accepted at Penn State. The guard chatted about his son’s hopes for college acceptance while the two men walked back to the inmate’s cell.


  1. Prisoners do not leave cells to use bathroom. Toilets are in the cells.
  2. Employees within the corrections system prefer being called corrections officers. Calling a corrections officer a prison guard will show both ignorance and a lack of respect.
  3. It is against DOC policy for corrections officers to get to know inmates on a personal level and to share personal information, as it interferes with their ability to keep custody and control. Staff is told not to discuss any personal information at any time while at work as inmates are always listening and can use it against you to blackmail you.

[1] Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections Services (DPSCS). 2007 Inmate Handbook.  Available: http://www.dpscs.state.md.us/rehabservs/doc/pdfs/2007_Inmate_ Handbook.pdf.

[2] DPSCS. 2007 Inmate Handbook.

[3] DPSCS. 2007 Inmate Handbook.

[4] DPSCS. 2007 Inmate Handbook.

[5] Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. § 7-301.

[6] DPSCS Office of Treatment Services.  Available: https://www.dpscs.state.md.us/agencies/


[7] DPSCS Maryland Parole Commission FAQs.  Available: http://www.dpscs.state.md.us/aboutdpscs/FAQmpc.shtml#answ1.          

[8] DPSCS. 2007 Inmate Handbook.

[9] Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Hallie Martyniuk (2013). Working with Victims who are Inmates.  Available: http://www.pcar.org/sites/default/files/docs/6%20Working%20with%20