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True or false? The number of necessary prison beds is calculated by using school test reading results.

While many people believe this is true, this statement is false.

Although there are numerous studies to show the correlation between literacy rates and the number of people in prison, there is no actual evidence for prisons using reading scores to predict the number of beds they need.

But with facts like “85 percent of juvenile offenders have trouble reading,” it certainly makes the claim convincing.

How Did It All Start

In 2009, while campaigning for the spot of Virginia’s governor in the United States, candidate Terry McAuliffe was quoted saying “we use the failure rates of third-graders to help predict how many prison spots Virginia will need.”

From there on, this catchy statement quickly spread throughout the country and the world by people advocating for education reform.

It wasn’t until some reporters decided to fact-check it and debunked it.

But it does make one wonder, how do prisons predict the numbers of beds they need?

How Prison Beds Are Calculated

According to one Policy Advisory Commission in the United States, most prisons look at several factors to calculate the number of prison beds.

One is criminal justice trends. This includes the total number of arrests and charges every year.

Two is changes in prison policies, which affects how much time each prisoner will spend in confinement.

The third is the state’s overall population.

Once they have all this, they’ll crunch the numbers to come up with a prediction, which often comes astonishingly close to the real number.

For example, in 2017, the commission predicted 36,774 beds will be needed and 36,448 of those beds ended up being used.

Keep in mind, however, these numbers come from one state of the United States.

Every country has its own set of prison policies.

Other Factors

To get an even clearer estimation of prison beds, researchers also look at the sentence and security level of each inmate.

If an inmate has a high sentence level or requires additional security, he or she will be placed in solitary confinement.

Otherwise, most inmates will end up in dormitory style cells with bunk beds.

You may have seen prison cells in movies that hold up to four to eight people but larger prisons will have dormitories that can hold up to hundreds of beds.

Overcrowded Prisons

Unfortunately, overcrowded prisons are not an uncommon problem throughout the world.

In South Africa, there were only 119,134 bed spaces available for its 161,984 inmates in March 2016.

One way facilities attempt to solve this problem is by placing as many two-tier and three-tier bunk beds as they can, in as many rooms as they can.

When that’s still not enough, facilities will purchase fold-up beds that you can store away during the day.

Space Solutions

While we may not have a solution for how to decrease the number of prisoners in the world, we can help everyone get their own bed at least.

If space is an issue for you, we’ll work with you to come up with a solution. Call or contact us today.

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