By Roxanne Squires
There is a discrete, yet evident correlation between environment and behavior, with noise pollution seldom addressed as an issue in correctional facilities; and that is what Scott Moreland, president of Encartele Inc., is working to improve by controlling noise and content in correctional facilities with new, cutting-edge sensor technologies.
Noise pollution is characterized as “disturbing or excessive noise that may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life.” In jails and prisons, loud noise is almost unavoidable, and can stem from multiple sources, including alarms, yelling and pounding from inmates, environmental systems, etc.
Prolonged exposure to this excess noise can eventually lead to multiple health and behavioral issues. These issues include irritability, sleep disturbance, fatigue, hearing impairment, immune deficiency, hypertension, headaches, vertigo, high blood pressure, elevated adrenaline and even increased risk of heart disease. In return, this increased irritation combined with elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels result in more aggressive behavior, less inclination to comply and difficulty for staff in maintaining control and safety- further creating more health problems and more noise.
Although noise pollution within correctional facilities has been acknowledged, it is not widely recognized and often not seen as an issue in the first place. Moreland explained that if the prison system recognized this correlation and practiced better noise solutions, recidivism rates could eventually be lowered as a result.
“There is an inherent connection between the levels of noise and the behavior of inmates, and in an effort to be able to assess these future outcomes of inmate behavior by maintaining and controlling noise impact or to have a better understanding of it, you will have a much better foresight of what could potentially happen based on the different noise levels occurring inside the facility,” said Moreland.
Noise pollution is also capable of affecting different people in different ways. For female inmates, jail and prison noise can influence hormonal changes. This has been especially evident in pregnant women, and may result in lower birth weights and birth defects. For adolescent inmates, noise may be even more of a problem than their adult counterparts. With “increased hormone levels and fluctuations during ones’ formative years, noise may cause even more drastic episodes of the health issues previously addressed,” according to Moreland.
Correctional facilities by design do not offer a “softened” acoustic environment, with jails and prisons being made mostly of concrete and metal, ultimately creating what Moreland describes the acoustics to be akin to that of standing inside a tunnel.
Moreland explained that, first and foremost, acoustics are the most important component in changing a facility. “I think it’s evident that, if you can remove the stereotype of noise associated with being inside a cell block, it eventually reduces the inherent feeling of being ‘caged,’ for lack of a better term,” said Moreland.
The prevalence of mental illness among the prison population is also a major contributing factor. With these inmates already experiencing irritability and agitation, high volumes of noise can make it much harder to cope, further provoking said mental illness and resulting in misbehavior.
Check out the entire article published in the September/October issue of Correctional News magazine.