Prison cell

A prison cell (also known as a jail cell) is a small room in a prison or police station where a prisoner is held. Cells greatly vary by their furnishings, hygienic services, and cleanliness, both across countries and based on the level of punishment to which the person being held has been sentenced. Cells can be occupied by one or multiple people depending on factors that include, but are not limited to, inmate population, facility size, resources, or inmate behavior.

A contemporary prison cell in Germany


19th century prison cell in Pawiak, Warsaw

The International Committee of the Red Cross recommends that cells be at least 5.4 m2 in size. Prison cells vary in size internationally from 2 m2 in Guinea, 3 m2 in Poland, 7 m2 in Germany[1] to 10 m2 in Norway and 12 m2 in Switzerland.[2]

Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 15 December 2015) call for a minimum standard for personal living space in prison establishments is 6m² of living space for a single-occupancy cell or 4m² of living space per prisoner in a multiple-occupancy cell for the prevention of torture and inhuman treatment.

In the United States old prison cells are usually about 6 by 8 feet in dimension which is 48 square feet[citation needed] (moreover however American Correctional Association standards call for a minimum of 70 square feet = 6,5 m2), with steel or brick walls and one solid or barred door that locks from the outside. Many modern prison cells are pre-cast.[3] Solid doors typically have a window that allows the prisoner to be observed from the outside.

Furnishings and fixtures inside the cell are constructed so that they cannot be easily broken, and are anchored to the walls or floor. Stainless steel lavatories and commodes are also used. This prevents vandalism or the making of weapons.

There are a number of prison and prison cell configurations, from simple police-station holding cells to massive cell blocks in larger correctional facilities. The practice of assigning only one inmate to each cell in a prison is called single-celling.[4]

In many countries, the cells are dirty and have very few facilities. Other countries may house many offenders in prisons, making the cells crowded.[5][6]

Prison cells in the UKEdit

In the United Kingdom, cells in a police station are the responsibility of the Custody Sergeant, who also logs each detainee and allocates him or her an available cell. Custody Sergeants also ensure cells are clean and as germ-free as possible, in accordance with the Human Rights Act of 1998.[7]

Prison cells in the USEdit

In the United States, the standard cell is equipped with either a ledge or a steel bedstead that holds a mattress. A one-piece sink/toilet constructed of welded, putatively stainless steel is also provided. Bars typify older jails, while newer ones have doors that typically feature a small safety glass window and, often, a metal flap that can be opened to serve meals.

A limited number of United States prisons offer upgrades. Costing around $100 a night, these cells are considered cleaner and quieter, and some of them offer extra facilities.[8][9][10]

High-security cellsEdit

Often, different standards for cells exist in a single country and even in a single jail. Some of those cells are reserved for "isolation", where a convict is kept alone in a cell as punishment method. Some isolation cells contain no furnishing and no services at all.[11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Theo Deutinger (October 2017). Handbook of Tyranny. Lars Muller Publishers. p. 105. ISBN 978-3-03778-534-8.
  3. ^ "5-Sided Precast Prison Cell". Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  4. ^ Michael Sherman; Gordon J. Hawkins (1983). Imprisonment in America: Choosing the Future. University of Chicago Press. pp. 32–33. ISBN 0-226-75280-1.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Human Rights Acts of 1998" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 March 2002. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Upgrade Your Jail Cell For 80 Bucks A Day?". 2007-04-29. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
  9. ^ "What Isn't for Sale? - Michael J. Sandel". The Atlantic. 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
  10. ^ "Legal articles, cases and court decisions". Prison Legal News. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
  11. ^ Giunti, Arianna (2014). La cella liscia. Storie di ordinaria repressione nelle carceri Italiane (in Italian). Italy: Inform-ant. ISBN 9788898194193.

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