Classification is the primary method of keeping order in a correctional facility by dividing inmates into categories of security risks. Classification keeps inmates who could harm other inmates or officers from mixing with inmates who are not as inclined to violent behavior. It also provides a system of reward and punishment to control inmate behavior.
The classification process sends a message to inmates of the need to behave and comply with rules and procedures – good behavior will result in improvements in their classification and poor behavior will result in their classification being changed to a less desirable level of inmate life and environment. Proper classification where inmates are reviewed in an objective manner is the cornerstone to maintaining order in the facility.
Improper classification creates problems since the “message” to inmates regarding the cause and affect of their behavior is confused and has less effort on their desire to comply with rules and procedures since they can not see clear benefits to “good behavior”. In addition, the facility risks liability problems if wrongly classified inmates are mixed. A well-designed classification system can also alleviate some problems caused by over-crowding.