US legal system - Who decides what type of jail time?

This question is spurred by a TV show, but I presume there is a factual answer.

In the US legal system who decides what type of jail time a convicted criminal receives? I’m more so interested in whether someone is placed in protective custody as opposed to general population, but I’d also be interested in differences between say serving in a maximum security prison as opposed to say a low security ‘white collar’ type facility.

There are 3 main types of prison in the US: local jails (usually run by the county or a large city), state prisons (run by each state), and federal prisons (run by the federal government). Jails are used while someone is awaiting trial and for short state offenses (usually under 1 year), while state prisons are used for longer state sentences (1 year and up), and Federal prisons are used for federal crimes (minor federal crimes may just use a local jail, I forget exactly). So the initial sentence determines which of these 3 systems a prisoner does their time in (it’s usually obvious, but sometimes there are complicated negotiations).

Once a prisoner is in one of these systems, what happens to him is determined by the administrators of that system based on their regulations and any laws that affect that system. Jails generally don’t have a lot of options since they’re normally for the short term, it’s prisons that usually have multiple different facilities to choose from. People are sent to different levels of security within a prison and to different severities of prison based on the level of risk of hurting people or escaping the prison system thinks they pose, not the severity of the crime (so cold blooded murderer is usually much higher risk than a child molestor and will be in a higher security facility). Decisions on which prison to send someone to happens at a higher level, decisions on what happens to someone at a prison is usually done entirely by the staff at that prison. If the cops or prosecutor tell the prison staff that a particular person needs to be in custody because they were an informant or something similar, there usually isn’t resistance from the prison admins, but it is ultimately their decision.

Never worked in a prison but I was a deputy and got yanked off the road for almost 2 years & made to work in the jail before getting reassigned to patrol.

Unless a judge gives specifics once a person is sentenced it is up to the corresponding DOC to determine placement.

Milwaukee County has a separate division for the jail titled “Classification”. Where in the jail an inmate goes is determined by several factors. Certain pods have certain types of inmates. An inmate awaiting state prison would generally be in a 5th floor pod while a Huber inmate was in 3B or 3A overflow (the Huber facility moved to the HOC since I’ve retired). An inmate who was convicted of a very minor first offense could get placed as an inmate worker in pod 3D. An inmate who was deemed to be in danger from other inmates would get placed in 4B which was a split pod and contained the protective custody cells. Those inmates were lucky if they got 1 hour in the day room every other day.

Inmates who were deemed to be a danger to themselves got placed in the Special Needs pod, and those who were a danger to others got stuck in 4D isolation.

All of this was determined by the classification staff or possibly jail supervisors, not by judges, prosecutors, or cops.

The Kansas Dept of Corrections has their inmate classification manual (PDF only) available online.

Generally, there are certain automatic determinations (e.g., you have more than 50 years remaining to serve, you must be in max; you have an immigration detainer pending, you must be medium or higher). Otherwise, it’s on a points system. Your most serious current conviction is rated: 1st degree murder is worth 9 points, while shoplifting is worth only one. Then you get extra points for time left to serve (more time = more points), previous criminal history, a history of escapes or escape attempts, your age (younger = more points), etc. When they calculate the total, 17 points or more = max, 12-16 = medium-high, etc.

In Kansas, most inmates in protective custody are there because they asked to be there (they “checked in”). If there is an incident where one inmate attacks or threatens to attack another inmate and staff become aware of it, they’ll offer the victim the opportunity to go to PC, or ask them to sign a waiver if they don’t want to go.

Inmates who are particularly vulnerable or particularly problematic are sometimes sent to other states to do their time–most states have reciprocal agreements to house each other’s problem children.

In New York, the decision is made by the Department of Corrections. A judge cannot sentence a prisoner to serve their time in a particular prison or category of prisons.

Are there any jurisdictions where a judge can do this? E.g. “I sentence you to five years in Big Mountain Prison in Bumtown.” or “I sentence you to five years of maximum security prison followed by three years of medium security prison and ending with two years of white collar country club prison.”

What about specific privileges or restrictions in prison? Apparently, some jurisdictions still permit judges to specify that a prison term be served “at hard labor”, but could a judge sentence a person to prison with no TV but guaranteed access to a library with at least 1,000 books, or to a prison with at least four hours of outdoor recreation a day but no weight room?

Federal judges can recommend that a defendant be sentenced to a particular prison, or at least a prison in a particular part of the country or at a particular security level; while such recommendations are not binding on the Bureau of Prisons, they tend to carry a great deal of weight. Such recommendations are often included in plea bargain agreements.

For example, John Lindh’s plea bargain agreementincludes this clause:

Lindh was originally sent to the federal prison in Victorville, California, near his parents, although he’s now in Terre Haute, Indiana.

At least in the U.S., whether the prison has 1000 books in the library or a weight room would be within the province of the prison administrators and subject to change; they might accept a recommendation from the judge, but it would not be binding. (And in those U.S. states where “hard labor” sentences still exist, it’s still just a recommendation, because circumstances can change and an inmate’s health will determine what he can or can’t do; it is the prison authorities who would face an 8th amendment claim for forcing an ill or injured inmate out into the fields beyond his physical capacity.)

I understand that the DOC decides (with very little overview or feedback) whene a prisoner goes, but here in AUS, we don’t have the split between local/state, so…

I would have thought that there were funding issues? Is DOC state? If so, can they, how can they, send a prisoner to a City facilty? If it’s run by the city, who pays for it?