How does a prison inmate spend a day?

Written by casey holley | 13/05/2017
How does a prison inmate spend a day?
Some inmates choose to gain an education in prison (Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Each prison has its own rules and regulations concerning the daily activities of inmates. Some prisons have work programs, treatment programs, educational programs and other inmate activities. On the other hand, some prisons expect inmates to stay in their cell all day.

Another factor that determines the way an inmate spends the day is the security classification of the inmate. A high-security or dangerous inmate is less likely to be able to participate in activities outside of his cell. Visitation days and days when the prison is on lockdown are usually the only days on which the daily routine is altered.


An inmate's day usually begins with a wake-up call from the Correctional Officer on duty, usually at the shift change from night shift to day shift. The time of this call can range anywhere from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., depending on the facility. Roll call is usually taken at this time to ensure all inmates are accounted for. Inmates are usually allowed to get dressed in day clothes before going to breakfast.

Work and programmes

After breakfast, inmates in facilities with work programmes--such as working in the kitchen or garden--will usually go to work. Some inmates go to school instead, while others may have to go to treatment programmes, including drug treatment. The inmates stay at their assigned location until lunchtime. At this time, another roll call is usually taken. After lunch and roll call, the inmates usually return to their assigned job or programme.


When the day's work is done, the inmate will return to his cell. This is the time that is usually spent cleaning the cell, writing home, drawing, working out or socialising with other inmates. Some prisons allow inmates to spend their free time in a common room playing cards or watching television. Dinner is served during this time in the cafeteria, although some prisons serve the inmates while they are in their cells. Showers are usually taken at this time, too.

Lights out

The day ends with another roll call, and finally lights out. Although the unit is usually fairly dark after lights out, some inmates choose to write letters or read books. However, because of the early wake-up call that will come the following morning, most inmates welcome lights out and try to get as much sleep as possible.

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