The American Jail: Cornerstone of Modern Corrections / Edition 1

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This is a book about the local jail–how it developed, how they work, and what jail staffs are doing to protect the public and keep inmates safely confined. Written from a practitioner’s point of view, its goal is to give the reader a realistic view of this often overlooked institution. Critical issues such as the traits of offenders, the climate, and security are discussed, as well as the main operations of the jail such as booking and classification. Insights from those within (staff and inmates) reinforce the book’s real world perspective and current statistics and research document the development and operation of local jails.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher




Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008


1st Lt. Gary F. Cornelius (Retired)

Fairfax County Office of the Sheriff (VA)

Adjunct Faculty: George Mason University

Administration of Justice Program

Co Founder: ETC Consultants, LLC: Education and Training in Corrections

This book provides a compressive historical perspective on jails in America. The book is one that provides an evolutionary and informational view of how local jails developed in this country, the mission of the local jail as it pertains to criminal justice, public safety and the safety of inmates, as well as current status of jails and the future of the American jail.

The American Jail: Cornerstone of Modern Corrections is organized in a manner that makes it useful for criminal justice students just learning about America’s jails or for the reader who is also a practitioner. The author retired from corrections after working in a local jail for over 27 years, is a trainer at several criminal justice academies, an author of several books on corrections and has taught criminal justice courses-including courses on local jails and community corrections, for over 20 years. He is very familiar with in service training, teaching at the undergraduate college level and the needs of both college students and corrections personnel.

The usefulness of this book lies in the statistical data, research findings, programming information, operational information and the views that are offered by practitioners. It is the combination of the above that makes this such a valuable and unique text.

This text would be of value for any college course on jails. Students will find this a practical text that is easy to read with references that will support their course of study. As an adjunct instructor this is a text that I would definitely choose for my students. Specifically, the book starts with the historical perspective that provides the necessary foundation for understanding the evolution of the American jail. Within the first chapter the reader is presented with details regarding the growth of the jail population and the impact on the physical structure of jails. For the reader who is not familiar with terms such as linear, podular and direct supervision, the author has included historical photos as well as current photos of different jails both inside and out. These illustrations help the support the reader as he or she gains perspective and understanding on the changes that have occurred over time.

For the college instructor and the training officer the text is laid out in a systematic manner with chapter objectives, highlights, points of view written by practitioners (one point of view was written by a former inmate), review questions, terms to know, end notes and a lengthy glossary at the end of the book.

This text is clearly written by a practitioner from both the field of corrections and higher education. The combination of this experience has resulted in a text that is useful in both environments providing an accurate detailed account of the American Jail.

Reviewed by Kathleen Mickle-Askin, MC, Director of Training, Delaware Department of Correction. Ms. Mickle-Askin is the 2007-2008 President of the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel and also has taught as an adjunct instructor at Delaware Technical and Community College, Wilmington University and the University of Delaware.


From: Ed Wolahan, Correctional Program Specialist

Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons, National Institute of Corrections

Sub: The American Jail: Cornerstone of Modern Corrections: By Gary F. Cornelius

The following is a review of the book, The American Jail, Cornerstone of Modern Corrections:

It is my belief that this book could serve as an excellent resource as a manual for training new jail staff in understanding how jails in the United States serve in an important role in the criminal justice system. It begins with the history and development of the American Jail and how they evolved in the United States.

The twelve chapters outline every important factor of the jail system and how each works in the development and operation of a well run, modern jail.

Each chapter, from Jail Security to The Future of the America Jail contains a feature called “Point of View” written by either a person who lives and breathes jail work every day or an academic person who has researched the American Jail and how it functions. These additions add to the credibility of the information in each chapter. I also like how the publisher high- lighted each of the Points of View to show the reader that extensive research was conducted for each chapter and it is not just the author’s point of view.

Illustrations throughout the book help new correctional officers or students in a criminal justice education program understand what it is like inside an American jail from the beginning to today. They also show how jails have changed and why these changes are so important.

Examples of forms and reports will help the correctional officer, either a new officer or “rookie” or a seasoned officer understand different forms and operations from other agencies. They could also compare them to their institutions as to how and why the forms are used and how other forms and reports are put together from other jails. It also shows the importance of documentation such as the incident report and the necessity of all the facts that happen and put in order of who, what, when, where, why, how and action taken. It also is important that both the spelling and grammar are correct because this incident report could end up in a court of law.

Each chapter also has a summary which gives a brief overview of the chapter. Review questions at the end of each chapter enhance the learning experience of the student and/or the participant in the training program/course. These could also be used by a professional trainer or teacher as pre and post test questions for each module. The “Terms to Know” feature at the end of each chapter helps the correctional officer and student comprehend the jail language and operational terms. All terms are defined in an extensive Glossary at the end of the text.

In summation, I feel that The American Jail is an excellent reference manual that could be used in a training class to develop new correctional officers assigned to work in a jail setting and also for students attending a college course on jails. It clearly shows how the jail works, and how important it is to the community in keeping the staff and public safe and the inmates safely confined. It also gives an overview of the future of the jails in the United States. I would recommend this book be used as a training manual for anyone entering law enforcement either as a police officer or a correctional officer working within the jail environment. I also recommend it for anyone who is interested in learning more about jails.


The American Jail: Cornerstone of Modern Corrections

Despite the fact that nearly every county and large city in America has long had a jail, jails remain a mystery to a vast majority of citizens. Even for many students of criminal justice and practitioners working within and beyond the walls, the operations of our jails are difficult to grasp. The American Jail — Cornerstone of Modern Corrections by Gary F. Cornelius succeeds in unraveling the mysteries for the reader by sorting fact from fiction in a straightforward and organized manner. The reader does not get lost, confused or overwhelmed by all the information.

Though there may never be a single source that covers all there is to know about jails and though it cannot replace years of correctional experience, a well researched, reliable source of information jump starts the process of learning what American jails are all about. The American Jail pulls theory and practice together so the reader has a real understanding of both, and it provides a comprehensive, quick study. Starting with jail history and development and closing with the future of the American jail, this book presents a wealth of information in clear and concise text.

Presenting new information in a way that promotes understanding is the acid test for any non-fiction writing, and this book by Mr. Cornelius will surely pass the test for any reader interested in the subject of the American jail. I have over thirty years in this business, and I found the book both helpful and informative. A copy is now among my office collection.

Warden George Hardinger

Carroll County (Maryland) Detention Center

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780131142800
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 10/26/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Lt. Gary F. Cornelius served the field of corrections in the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office from 1978 until his retirement in 2005. He has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement and corrections. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, class of 1974, and is a former officer of the Uniformed Division of the US Secret Service. In his correctional career, Gary has worked in many areas of jail operations, and retired as the Classification Supervisor of the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. Lt. Cornelius also teaches punishment and corrections, community corrections, and jails at George Mason University, and has been an adjunct faculty member there since 1986. He has taught many seminars on various subjects in corrections. For 20 years he was a certified trainer for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. He serves as an adjunct instructor for four Virginia criminal justice training academies.

Gary is active as a trainer and consultant for the National Institute of Justice, the American Jail Association, the American Correctional Association, and the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). In 1997, he was elected to the IACTP Board and represented local corrections training. He is an author, and has written more than 40 articles on corrections, including a quarterly column,now a book, called The Twenty Minute Trainer, for the IACTP’s The Correctional Trainer, which is available from ACA and LRPPublications. He is on the Board of Advisors of The Corrections Professional from LRP Publications. He has written other books: Stressed Out: Living and Working with Stress in Corrections and Jails in America : An Overview of Issues, 2nd Edition, both of which are available from the American Correctional Association. He has served as a consultant on the National Institute of Justice report: Addressing Correctional Officer Stress: Programs and Strategies, an Issues and Practices Report. In 2001, Carolina Academic Press published Lt. Cornelius’ work, The Correctional Officer: A Practical Guide. Also in 2001, the American Correctional Association published Lt. Cornelius’ latest work, The Art of the Con: Avoiding Offender Manipulation, which received the 2002 APEX Award. The second edition of Stressed Out was published by ACA in August, 2005.

Gary received the IACTP Board of Directors Award of Excellence in Correctional Training in 1995. He was included in the 1992-93 edition of Who’s Who Among Human Service Professionals, and in 2001 was named to America ’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals. In 2004, Lt. Cornelius received the President’s Award from the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel for his writing and contributions to The Correctional Trainer. In April, 2005 the George Mason University Administration of Justice Program awarded Lt. Cornelius its Instructor Appreciation Award for 2004-2005. In May, 2005, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania presented him with a Distinguished Alumni Award in Social Science. He is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and resides in Williamsburg, Virginia.

CLASSES FOR CORRECTIONAL STAFF Instructed by Gary F. Cornelius

Offender Manipulation Prevention

Stress Management Seminar

Cultural Diversity Seminar

Reading the Institutional Climate: Avoiding Security Disruptions

Legal Rights of Inmates

Suicide Prevention

Ethics and Professionalism in Corrections

Working with Difficult Employees

Time Management

Documenting Critical Incidents in the Jail

Gary can be reached at 571-233-0912 (cell), 757-645-3441 or at

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Table of Contents

I. The History and Development of Today’s Jail

II. Jail Security

III. Jail Climate

IV. Booking and Initial Intake

V. Classification and Inmate Housing

VI. Jail Programs and Services

VII. The Jail Population: Profile and Special Categories

VIII. Jail Staff

IX. Jails and the Courts

X. Jail Standards

XI. Jails and Community Corrections

XII. The Future of the American Jail



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