Louis Theroux: Miami Mega Jail
June 3, 2011 11:35 PM   Subscribe

Louis Theroux: Miami Mega Jail -> BBC: Ep1, Ep2. YT: Ep1, Ep2.
posted by stbalbach (56 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
So Adult Swim's "Superjail" is a lot closer to reality than we all thought.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:53 PM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


This seems at least as cruel and unusual as California's situation. Will the Supreme Court's verdict in Brown v Plata have any effect here, or is there another case that might do so?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:56 PM on June 3, 2011


I don't think that subjecting inmates to interviews with Louis Theroux is that bad.
posted by srboisvert at 1:01 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


this is an amazing show
posted by thekorruptor at 1:28 AM on June 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not available in your area.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:09 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I watched this when it was on telly, and it's profoundly depressing. I mean, it's not exactly a secret that the US prison system is royally fucked up, but the unending parade of human rights abuses was pretty hard to take.

And, of course, all these people are innocent until proven guilty, but they're spending three, four, five years in this hellish place.
posted by jack_mo at 2:18 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


i like how that one guy regards getting a mentally retarded cellmate---that he can take complete advantage of sexually---as a gift from God ("its a gift... [looks up, big smile] ...from Him". (E1 P4 3:18)
posted by dongolier at 2:20 AM on June 4, 2011


Pretty sure you're misinterpreting that, dongolier. He's talking about stealing food and other items, not sexual assault.
posted by ryanrs at 3:25 AM on June 4, 2011


i like how that one guy regards getting a mentally retarded cellmate---that he can take complete advantage of sexually---as a gift from God ("its a gift... [looks up, big smile] ...from Him".

Have you been hanging out with Antonin again? I told you, that boy is a bad influence.
posted by jaduncan at 3:56 AM on June 4, 2011


I cant see how you got to that meaning dongolier. ryanrs has it right - it's about ripping off the weakest. Appalling in it's own right, of course.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:26 AM on June 4, 2011


An incredible documentary and so very, very dark. Genuinely terrifying.
posted by Usher at 4:32 AM on June 4, 2011


An incredible documentary and so very, very dark.

I think Theroux's wide-eyed ingenue schtick is more effective the darker the topic - he lulls the audience and his subjects into a false sense of security, then lets the latter unleash a torrent of horror without really getting in the way. What's irritating in a doc about plastic surgery or trying to interview Michael Jackson really seems to work with serious subject matter.

I sort of wish he'd stop travelling to make his films, though - there's a sense that we British viewers are getting to pruriently gawp at a faraway problem that's nothing to do with us, where the only reaction is to tut and feel superior to Americans, South Africans, mad Zionists, &c..

I get that he's not a campaigning journalist, but he could look to the UK - an equivalent to this doc might be one on rates of suicide and self harm among young prisoners on remand, say - and have a real effect.
posted by jack_mo at 5:02 AM on June 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I always feel like I need to begin my jail stories with a disclaimer of some kind. About ten years ago, I was fairly heavily involved in transportation activism in California. This meant I was occasionally arrested at political demonstrations. These arrests were done just to harass people the police felt were 'leaders' or 'organizers'; they pretty much never resulted in actual charges being filed. Just arrest, hold for a couple days, then release. Most of the time I didn't even need to go to court.

So although I've never been sentenced to jail, I have been through the pre-trial detention process maybe a half-dozen times. This meant spending three or four days in jail (since demonstrations often occur on Fridays and Saturdays).

Usually, when you're arrested, you are taken to a city jail. City jails (at least around here) only hold people until their first court date. Generally, after their first court appearance, people don't go back to the city jail, they go to the county jail. So city jails don't have long-term prisoners. I think the maximum is 30 days? (Not sure about that since my charges were always dropped very quickly.)

The Miami jail was a county jail. I've only been to a county jail once, in Contra Costa. And I have to say (I can't believe I'm writing this), it was a decent place. Setting aside the fact that it was jail, it was ok. Mostly it was just boring. Crappy food, though.

In the Contra Costa County jail, after you're booked, you're put in a big cell with 20 or 30 other people. There's a TV in the cell and most people sit and watch. There are no bunks, just chairs. You spend a day or so in there, being observed (I think). Maybe you spend another day in a another cell after that (I don't remember).

This first day or two is some kind of observation period, I think. After that, I remember getting my permanent cell assignment. I was quiet and kept to myself, and I guess there was overcrowding, because I wasn't put inside a cell. I got a bunk in a big open room. There were small cells lining the walls of the room, but I was in the middle. I remember thinking how funny it was to be in lockdown without any locks. For me, lockdown meant sitting on my bunk instead of walking around.

There were probably thirty people with me in that not-a-cell. It was a very civilized crowd. I really mean that. Both the prisoners and the guards were noticeably polite. The closest thing I saw to a fight was a prisoner and a guard having a shouting match. It was actually really funny. The guard was threatening to write up the prisoner for a violation, and the prisoner was threatening to report a complaint against the guard. Yes, seriously!

Does the Contra Costa County jail have a place like Miami's 5th and 6th floors? I don't know, maybe. If it does, you don't end up there by default. I suspect you don't end up on Miami's 5th floor without reason, either. Not to say that this excuses the conditions in any way—it doesn't. But I don't think your average DUI offender or drug arrestee is placed in such a brutal environment.

(Anybody here ever been arrested in Miami? Tell us what it was like. Memail me if you want to comment anonymously.)
posted by ryanrs at 5:18 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've just watched the first episode - harrowing stuff. Really shows a more honest side oif incarceration on the local level, unlike television such as 'Jail' and msnbc's 'Lockup' which are basically propaganda programs along the lines of 'Cops'.

I pass by the main jail here in Dallas quite often - a major road runs through a cluster of several institutions - and you can almost feel the misery that hangs in the air, a heavy negative energy produced by the endless suffering and sorrow that goes on in those buildings.

Though it's been quite a number of years now, I've been to jail a few times in my life. I hope against all hope that I never find myself there again. I no longer find myself in situations where I have reason to be arrested, though who's to say I won't encounter a cop who's had a bad day and decides to take it out on a guy who looks like someone who wouldn't be friends with him in high school?
posted by item at 6:07 AM on June 4, 2011


I've been to jail a few times in my life. I hope against all hope that I never find myself there again.

This makes sense to me. What I can't figure out is why the widely known existence of the actual condition in jails doesn't send a meme ripping through the lower levels of society: Be good; Be very good; Study the laws and statues of your state and municipality; Take pains not to break them; Dress to fit in; and treat others with courtesy; Avoid all interaction with law enforcement personnel and situations that might lead to such interactions; Do not speak or act in a manner that might alarm other people; Weigh the advantages of small seemingly harmless acts like using or selling drugs, driving while intoxicated, carrying a firearm, or slugging an asshole, against the reality of prison. If you are of the member of an ethnic group that is particularly targeted by law enforcement, all of the above goes double. Many people are innocent victims of law enforcement, and many people are in jail because they are poor or colored. But the majority have wound up in jail by their own volitional acts. Don't be one of them.
posted by Faze at 6:32 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This makes sense to me. What I can't figure out is why the widely known existence of the actual condition in jails doesn't send a meme ripping through the lower levels of society: Be good; Be very good; Study the laws and statues of your state and municipality; Take pains not to break them; Dress to fit in; and treat others with courtesy; Avoid all interaction with law enforcement personnel and situations that might lead to such interactions; Do not speak or act in a manner that might alarm other people; Weigh the advantages of small seemingly harmless acts like using or selling drugs, driving while intoxicated, carrying a firearm, or slugging an asshole, against the reality of prison. If you are of the member of an ethnic group that is particularly targeted by law enforcement, all of the above goes double. Many people are innocent victims of law enforcement, and many people are in jail because they are poor or colored. But the majority have wound up in jail by their own volitional acts. Don't be one of them.

Because who wants to bow down to people who are are very often lazier thinkers than them, wish to remove the freedom of their whole community, and are often both institutionally and personally racist? I can perfectly understand how people end up rejecting a society that offers nothing for them, and I really really dislike the idea that you seem to be offering of a life of utter subservience that you even -explicitly- admit would be unfairly imposed on some ethnic and economic groups. In short, you can be summaried as saying 'you're not white, not one of the chosen WASPs, and therefore not only should you accept that many people are in jail because they are poor or colored but you should obey the rule of law more than those who benefit from it and provided you with terrible education, social services and unequal treatment in almost all areas of life?

In short, no.
posted by jaduncan at 6:41 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Faze, on a calmer reaction it comes across a little as effectively saying this: You are the Other. We will oppress you. The best solution for this is to make your dress and mannerisms sufficiently subservient that you do not attract our attention and it is best that you even avoid interacting with us.

The problem in that unbelievably privileged position seems to lie with the people running the police state, not the powerless. The thing that particularly riles me is that you even identify dress. That isn't a matter of law, and law enforcement isn't meant to be a matter of enforcing social as opposed to legal conformity. The right response to mass infringements of human rights in penal systems (as recently found regarding CA at Supreme Court level) is to protest the infringements, not tell people they should forgo the right to be treated as equally valuable members of society.
posted by jaduncan at 6:49 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This makes sense to me ... Don't be one of them.

If you're not joking then you live in a fantasy world and I pity the way you live your life.
posted by item at 6:52 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry if that was a bit harsh, but lines such as "Do not speak or act in a manner that might alarm other people" read as straight up satire, and if it's not, then color me confused.
posted by item at 7:02 AM on June 4, 2011


this series just scratches at the surface
posted by halekon at 7:20 AM on June 4, 2011


It's funny to me that there's a sub-genre of British TV/film entirely devoted to showing the most backwards and brutal aspects of the U.S. -- overcrowded prisons, people buying guns at Big K, enormous people binge eating stacks of hamburgers while their two-year-old daughters get plastic surgery to be in beauty pageants.
posted by sswiller at 7:46 AM on June 4, 2011


This makes sense to me. What I can't figure out is why the widely known existence of the actual condition in jails doesn't send a meme ripping through the lower levels of society: Be good; Be very good;

Because it doesn't matter if you're good or bad. People who are good get fucked by the cops and the system as well as people who are bad. If you're poor you get shit handed to you every day, whether it's your crappy school, the horrible welfare system, cops pulling you over for your skin color, or even the way rich people on the street look at you. You even get shit from your own people. There is no evidence, no evidence at all, that playing nice in the underclass gets you anywhere with the upper class. Nobody's going to give you respect, nobody's going to give you a way out, and 95% of people who try to get out the right way fail.

So why try? Fuck them. You're trying to survive. Dog-eat-dog. This is how you live. You try to get yours because if you don't everybody else is going to try to take it. And the cops, the upper class, the rich white people, these people sure as hell aren't going to help you because you're black and and you're dirt to them.

Prison is part of that. It's a brutal manifestation of the undercurrent of feeling on the streets. And it may not even matter if you're guilty or not, you can end up being there anyway (how many stories have popped up on Metafilter of guys who have been in jail DECADES and have been exonerated and are still in?). In fact, if you can survive prison it's further proof of that big FUCK YOU you're giving to that society trying to beat you down--it can throw its worst, you can take it and come out on top.

Human beings don't want to feel emasculated and subservient. That's for animals. Who the hell wants to be an Uncle Tom? Abiding by this code, where you take things, where you take respect because you know the system's set up so you can't possibly earn it, is one way of feeling human again, of feeling independent and free.
posted by schroedinger at 7:57 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Remember his interview with the "habitual masterbator"? Remember what the guy said? They don't gun it to all of the guards, the ones they feel try to treat them right get respected. But overwhelmingly they feel the guards trying to treat them like animals, trying to beat them down, not allowing them outlets like pornography, so they've taken a "Fuck you very much too, officer" attitude and don't give a shit what the guards think. I'm not defending the practice. I just think that conversation was an insight into the behavior there.
posted by schroedinger at 8:01 AM on June 4, 2011


The military program in the second episode seemed liked a good idea. 4 months of boot camp, or 10 years in jail - nice choice. Anyone know anything about it? Do they go on to the real military or just walk free?
posted by stbalbach at 8:18 AM on June 4, 2011


It's funny to me that there's a sub-genre of British TV/film entirely devoted to showing the most backwards and brutal aspects of the U.S. -- overcrowded prisons, people buying guns at Big K, enormous people binge eating stacks of hamburgers while their two-year-old daughters get plastic surgery to be in beauty pageants.

A British reviewer recently took a swing at Theroux for precisely this reason. I can't stand the reviewer, but there's some justice in the general charge of transatlantic voyeurism (not that we aren't as prurient about our own underclass). However, Theroux (half-American and partly raised in the US) is himself a walking parody. At his best, his ingenu schtick gets him deeper than would a more overtly confrontational approach. On occasion - I'm thinking of the episode about US survivalists - he actually complicates stereotypes, teasing-out situational and biographical complexities and evoking sympathy in some characters whose media presence is otherwise pretty marginal.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 8:32 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This makes sense to me. What I can't figure out is why the widely known existence of the actual condition in jails doesn't send a meme ripping through the lower levels of society: Be good; Be very good;

Because often people in desperate situations cannot reliably judge the long-term effects of their actions.... They might get caught, this time... but they know from past experience and the experience of others there's a good chance they won't.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:41 AM on June 4, 2011


I'd kind of got a bit bored with Theroux's stuff but he seems to have toned down his shtick a bit (less cutaways to his raised eyebrows) and the last couple of things I've seen (this and the return to the Westboro Baptists) have been really good.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:44 AM on June 4, 2011


In short, you can be summaried as saying 'you're not white, not one of the chosen WASPs, and therefore not only should you accept that many people are in jail because they are poor or colored but you should obey the rule of law more than those who benefit from it and provided you with terrible education, social services and unequal treatment in almost all areas of life?

In short, no.


The point is, jaduncan, that saying "no" gets you shat on double -- unavoidably in straight society, but avoidably in jail. Why invite that? Living well is the best revenge. The benefits of not being an "Uncle Tom" are vastly overrated by young men, and more correctly estimated once you're a few years out of your twenties. You say to yourself, "Maybe if I'd eaten a little shit when that cop stopped me for having a missing brake light, I wouldn't be eating big bowls of shit right now in jail." This needs to be communicated to the young people of targeted ethnic groups. Unless one is Ghandi or some other kind of principled, highly focused not-violent activist, it's pretty much 100 percent better -- morally, spiritually and hedonically -- to be a free pussy than a caged lion.
posted by Faze at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The point is, jaduncan, that saying "no" gets you shat on double -- unavoidably in straight society, but avoidably in jail. Why invite that? Living well is the best revenge. The benefits of not being an "Uncle Tom" are vastly overrated by young men, and more correctly estimated once you're a few years out of your twenties.

"Living well"? What's "living well"? What kind of future are you offering these young men in exchange for them appearing to be snitches and bitches to their friends? Will you be providing them hope of a well-paying job with the atrocious education they receive in school? Will you be promising that if they play nice long enough, the racial profiling will stop? What, they might receive the appreciation of the cops? Oh man, because there is nothing these kids want more than the appreciation of the cops.
posted by schroedinger at 9:21 AM on June 4, 2011


"Maybe if I'd eaten a little shit when that cop stopped me for having a missing brake light, I wouldn't be eating big bowls of shit right now in jail." This needs to be communicated to the young people of targeted ethnic groups.

...so suck it up, brown people!

I don't even know what to say. You have argued that people should even change their mannerisms and dress. Your response to oppression is exactly 'well, just change who you are until we might approve of you'. It's unbelievably racist, and is quite impressively explicit victim blaming too.
posted by jaduncan at 9:22 AM on June 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sorry to keep double-messaging--but these kids live in a world where you can be a goddamned Harvard professor and still arrested in your own home. What hope are you offering them Faze, if they act in a manner you find appropriate?
posted by schroedinger at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are these videos blocked in USA? I am getting the "not available in your area" message as well.
posted by glycolized at 9:43 AM on June 4, 2011


For those in the USA: The YouTube links worked for me, the BBC ones didn't.
posted by texano at 9:46 AM on June 4, 2011


Oh. I am dense. I should finish reading one whole line of text. Thanks.
posted by glycolized at 10:01 AM on June 4, 2011


I've watched most of the Weird Weekends series and I have never seen any video journalist who can draw people out the way he does. Nazis, religious wackos, murderers doing life, something about him puts everyone completely off their guard, it's uncanny. Say what you will about him but I'd watch him talk to just about anyone and be fascinated.
posted by chaff at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2011


I love Louis Theroux. I've seen just about everything he's done, and this documentary stands out as being one of the best.

My brother is also in prison for life. A combination of a lying cop, prosecutor with a god complex, a defence attorney who didn't even meet with him once and didn't call a single witness or cross examine anyone, and a family member with an axe to grind put him there. What he actually "did" should have earned him six months in a low security county jail at most; now our family is putting up 30k no one has to get him a fair shot in the legal system. The new attorney says that in every single way, my brother was screwed over.

And my brother is white. Educated. Middle class. In his 20's. Had a professional job.

Now he's in San Quentin (which Theroux also made a documentary about...equally horrifying) and he's been sexually assaulted, beaten up, put in solitary for weeks, made to freeze in winter and burn in summer, put on lockdown for months (probably due to the state budget crisis...visits are expensive to manage), had his books taken away over and over, had his mail held for months, and has told us that if the appeal doesn't work, that he will probably kill himself rather than live like that for the rest of his life.

So I'm glad someone is making documentaries about how ridiculously horrid US prisons are. Even if he is showing them on the BBC. It's not good enough to be scared of the system or to just keep your head down.
posted by guster4lovers at 11:06 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I hope that some of the comments written in response to Faze are written by persons of color, who have faced these decisions, and not just WASPs invoking their fantasies of being oppressed minorities who stand up against the system, cost be damned. Can you really feel the internal discussion a person must have with himself about these choices, or do you just think your empathy is that strong and accurate? I don't think the discussion should cease, but maybe my own inability to uphold the ideal in so many situations colors my reaction to the reactions.
posted by still lampin' at 11:08 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


:: Now he's in San Quentin (which Theroux also made a documentary about...equally horrifying)

I hadn't seen that before - here it is.
posted by item at 11:19 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I don't think your average DUI offender or drug arrestee is placed in such a brutal environment.

One of the guys in the first episode - the one who was badly beaten - said that he was in for driving with a suspended license. Perhaps there was more to that story, but as a society we really need to assess whether a savage beating is an appropriate punishment for that type of crime.

Wait - I mean any crime.
posted by desjardins at 11:37 AM on June 4, 2011


What hope are you offering them Faze, if they act in a manner you find appropriate?

If you are a person from a targeted ethnic group, the first thing you need to do in life is stay out of jail. That's your first big responsibility. You owe that to yourself, your forbearers, your family, your children -- but mostly to yourself, because you are of no use to yourself or others if you are in jail. So anyone who advises persons of color to do anything that increases their risk of going to jail is doing them a grave disservice. The meme should be: look straight, talk straight, live straight and follow the rules. Because a nation of color that is behind bars is an emasculated nation, a nation of slaves, a nation of black eunuchs. In order to influence the world in any meaningful way, you need to be not in jail.
posted by Faze at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I sort of wish he'd stop travelling to make his films
I think part of the reason Theroux's schtick goes down so well is that here, as far as the groups he's addressing are concerned, he's the other. He doesn't have a dog in the fights he's covering. Plus, we Americans still think that anyone with any sort of British accent is smart and authoritative. That alone goes a long way.

you need to be not in jail
What happens when you end up in jail anyway? Repeatedly? When there's an APB out for a black male, 5'10", medium build, wearing jeans and a black jacket, and you get thrown in jail with everyone the hell else that who even vaguely meets that description?

What happens when you follow every rule to the letter, and beyond. When you work hard, and stay on the straight and narrow, and then end up in jail anyway? Keep in mind that jail comes before trial or arraignment. Is all that hard work going to feel like it paid off? Did it?

Stop and frisks in my city basically only happen in minority neighborhoods. They are more common in predominantly African-American areas than anywhere else. African-American males are, unsurprisingly, disproportionately arrested by cops, and make up a wildly disproportionate amount of the jail and prison populations. Cops routinely illegally search people's pockets, without permission. So don't live in one of those neighborhoods, you say? Go live in some candy-ass, pasty, upper-middle-class haven? You're still a target, even as a kid. Maybe that doesn't land you in the max security section of the jail. Then again, the vast majority of the people in that Miami jail aren't in max security.

I'm white, female, and shortish. I jaywalk, occasionally drink in public, and have carried, used, and (once or twice in high school) sold drugs. I have never been arrested. I have, however, had a male friend walking next to me get tackled to the ground, cuffed, and put in a van without any explanation. He was sent to jail. Thirty-six hours later he was released, without ever being charged. They never did tell him what he was in for.

Walking the straight and narrow is not enough.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:07 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I can't figure out is why the widely known existence of the actual condition in jails doesn't send a meme ripping through the lower levels of society: Be good; Be very good

That's not how the decision-making process (such as it is) works when concerning crime. Severity of punishment is rarely a factor, only likelihood of getting caught; it's why there's still murders in death penalty states, and why people still download music even though you can get sued for millions of dollars. Also, unplanned pregnancy, AIDS, and other STD's are widely known; yet people still have unprotected sex.

The military program in the second episode seemed liked a good idea. 4 months of boot camp, or 10 years in jail - nice choice. Anyone know anything about it? Do they go on to the real military or just walk free?

It's just run in a military fashion, it's not affiliated with the actual military.
posted by Hiding From Goro at 1:09 PM on June 4, 2011


Couple other things:
1)Keep in mind that, as far as I have seen, Theroux is heading straight for the SMU, rather than looking at the inmates as a whole. I'm going to wager that most people in that jail have never shanked anybody, and have not been accused of murder.

2)Keep in mind that putting a camera in front of someone gives them an awesome opportunity to try to act out or act tough, and that there are a lot of incentives to act tough in that environment, even if you aren't (that "what shoe size are you" line was straight out of elementary school). Also note that both inmates and officers often refuse to disclose or misrepresent the crimes of the accused ("Murder! I swear! I am a tough guy!") or that others are in for ("He's in for rape, see? You shouldn't like him!"). So "yeah, I killed three people, that guy's a rapist, let me see those shoes" can mean a whole host of other things than, simply, "I killed three people," "that guy's a rapist," and "I might steal your shoes."

posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:12 PM on June 4, 2011


The military program in the second episode seemed liked a good idea. 4 months of boot camp, or 10 years in jail - nice choice. Anyone know anything about it? Do they go on to the real military or just walk free?

They've had them for about 30 years now, there's no convincing evidence they are effective, people enjoy having young thugs get screamed at and humiliated so the programs continue despite the lack of conspicuous success, and the inmates who complete the program do not go into the real military, not do they often just walk free--typically they are released to some kind of supervised parole.
posted by layceepee at 3:16 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


ryanrs, jaduncan, dash_slot: ive watched the interview again and sexual assault of his vulnerable cellmate is exactly what he is talking about.

"god im kinda slimy...there's a guy in our cell, kinda retarded... those people can be controlled [big smirk, laugh] ...its a manipulation...nothing bad, nothing bad .... no tying down nobody, no putting a knife to their neck 'give it up, give it up' ...its a gift, [laughs, looks away] ....this guy [Theroux] makes me laugh..."

he laughs and looks away, incredulous that Theroux doesn't understand the nature of his relationship with his cellmate, amazed that Theroux keeps asking for clarification---which of course would amount to actually confessing on camera.

does anyone else find this kind of obvious?
--------
im impressed by the level of prison-sucks-because-crime-sucks apologists or prison-doesnt-suck deniers in this thread. And how is the so-called justice system even relevant here? this is about the basic human rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our society: poor, uneducated, unable to advocate on the their own behalf----alot of them are really dumb and really crazy.
------
a family friend found a corpse in his car, panicked, and ended up doing 25 years for murder before the actual perpetrator found religion and confessed while incarcerated for a separate crime. it took two more years for our friend to get Colorado to expunge the conviction. he could have walked free earlier but he wanted a clean record because he was in fact innocent.

why are people so complacent about human rights for those convicted of crimes? maybe its easier to think of convicts as non-human, and then really who gives a shit....bunch of reptiles kept forever in a tiny cage.....serves them right, those monsters.
posted by dongolier at 4:13 PM on June 4, 2011


Dongolier, I still think he's just talking about stealing food and commissary items. Here's a translation as I understood it:

those people can be controlled [big smirk, laugh] ...its a manipulation.
- You can take their food by threatening to beat them up.

nothing bad, nothing bad .... no tying down nobody, no putting a knife to their neck 'give it up, give it up'
- Just verbal threats, no need to physically threaten (i.e. manipulation).

its a gift, [laughs, looks away]
- I didn't steal it, he 'gave' his food to me (i.e. a 'gift' given under duress).
posted by ryanrs at 4:44 PM on June 4, 2011


ryanrs: in prison is it common to tie someone down in order to take their food? and would you wield a shiv---a rare, precious, dangerous piece of contraband to get someone's food? its possible, but i think it might be a little bit naive.

straight guys rape other men in prison. everyone wants to top, no one wants to bottom, and it comes down to who has the power....thats what this interview is really talking about.
posted by dongolier at 4:59 PM on June 4, 2011


when I was a college freshman, at our orientation we did this exercise to help us understand discrimination and how systematic discrepancies in treatment and resources between ethnic and economic classes can affect people. At the start of the project, though, we weren't told exactly what the lesson was supposed to be.

We were split up into groups, and then we were put in a room, given supplies, and told to make a city of buildings out of cardboard. There were "police" walking around sort of observing the process.

My group had cardboard, a few small strips of tape, and nothing else. No scissors to cut the cardboard, so we started tearing it to build the walls for the city, and trying to use our tape sparingly. At first, we didn't know we had fewer supplies than the other groups, but after five minutes or so we saw that one of the other groups had scissors, and one of the OTHER groups had lots of tape, scissors, markers, other props, more cardboard, lots of stuff that we didn't have. Their city was going up quickly. They had windows and buildings marked "hospital" with little cars outside.

Our group was heavily restricted by the "police." If any of us stepped out of the tape boundaries for our area, we were sent to this little 'jail' or a tape square on the corner of the room. There were too many of us to fit in the boundaries and move around enough to work on the city, so more and more of us were sent to the jail. If we talked too loud, or made too much noise ripping cardboard, we were sent to jail. Meanwhile, the other group with the markers and such were running out of the room to get more supplies, talking loudly, getting help from the "police" in working on their project.

By the end of the exercise, our ENTIRE group was in the jail, and only a few people from the middle group, and basically no one from the privileged group with the markers and police help. I was actually one of the last people to go in the jail -- it didn't happen all at once -- there were the people who gave up immediately, and the people, like me, who kept dutifully trying to work on the project but kept having teammates taken away to the jail, limited resources and hassling from the "police" and it didn't seem worth it any more.

I'm not white, but I did grow up in an affluent, privileged environment and even though I considered myself liberal, this was a hugely eye opening experience for me and the rest of the group of mostly privileged 18 year olds about what on a societal level can keep people from just keeping their heads down and meekly trying to stay out of trouble.
posted by sweetkid at 5:14 PM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


in prison is it common to tie someone down in order to take their food?

Uh, I guess not. What makes you think that was going on?
posted by ryanrs at 6:04 PM on June 4, 2011


In order to influence the world in any meaningful way, you need to be not in jail.

Ahem.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:05 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Influential works written in prison:

Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy (524 AD)
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (1678)
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
posted by stbalbach at 6:40 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Living well is the best revenge. The benefits of not being an "Uncle Tom" are vastly overrated by young men, and more correctly estimated once you're a few years out of your twenties. You say to yourself, "Maybe if I'd eaten a little shit when that cop stopped me for having a missing brake light, I wouldn't be eating big bowls of shit right now in jail." This needs to be communicated to the young people of targeted ethnic groups. Unless one is Ghandi or some other kind of principled, highly focused not-violent activist, it's pretty much 100 percent better -- morally, spiritually and hedonically -- to be a free pussy than a caged lion.
I admire the person capable of this kind of deadpan satire, of the insight into the kind of monstrous character necessary to post as it would, and of the courage to look into it instead of turning away in revulsion. The self-consistency of the caricature's opinions are such that, like an earthworm, the whole of the thing may be grown from any of its parts. Horrifying and hilarious.

Faze is posting as Humbert Humbert, but he is Nabokovian in skill.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:26 PM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I can't figure out is why the widely known existence of the actual condition in jails doesn't send a meme ripping through the lower levels of society: Be good; Be very good

I forget where I saw this, but I know it was a book on the USA's drug policy, from my university library:

in poor (e.g. black) areas the cops would do sweeps, picking up pretty much anyone on the streets who was 'acting suspiciously'. Those people would then be in jail, with the option of pleading guilty to some kind of public order offence, and getting out straight away, or fighting the charge, which meant waiting in jail for weeks, having to argue their case with the support of a public defendent, etc. So they'd plead guilty and get out.

Then a while later there'd be another sweep. And if the same guys got picked up, this time they'd face more serious charges, because they had a prior record. And so it goes, and eventually you end up in jail. Nothing to do with any crimes you might have committed, or with talking back to the cops at a traffic stop.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:04 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing I found interesting and had'nt previously rreally thought about was, as one of the inmates pointed out, it's kinda in the defendents interests to spin out their time there for as long as possible and delay the trail as the longer it is from the crime the better for them - witnesses memory's get weaker, accusors have a change of heart etc... and they are more likely to be acquitted or have charges dropped / reduced

Oh and those (who are not trolls) wondering about 'why can't they just be good and stay out of prison?!' just watch The Wire already.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:40 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I caught one episode of this on telly, and it really does leave you with a huge sense of sadness. That 14 year old kid in particular, the one who couldn't face the boot camp and went back to prison. Heartbreaking.
posted by Fence at 9:46 AM on June 5, 2011


What I find quite telling is how nearly every person of authority openly acknknowledges the shortcoming of the system.

And everywhere we see the word CORRECTIONS plastered all over their windbreakers and stationery. But what exactly is being "corrected" here.
posted by triceryclops at 10:19 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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