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Dark Chapter of Arkansas Prison History
February 16, 2012 12:15 PM   Subscribe

There was a time when we were one of the worst, if not THE worst prison systems in the country. How we got there was simple. It was money. “When I first drove up to the gate in the summer of 1971, my dog was with me in the car. I drove up to a little shack with a guard. The guard was wearing a pistol and I realized he was a prisoner. The only people I saw carrying guns were convicts.” - Photographer Bruce Jackson
posted by thisisdrew (14 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tucker Telephone (Wikipedia): a torture device designed using parts from an old-fashioned crank telephone
posted by filthy light thief at 12:21 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, the gentleman in the video sounds just the Strother "the Captain" Martin from Cool Hand Luke.
posted by BurntHombre at 12:43 PM on February 16, 2012


You should read Slavery By Another Name by Douglas Blackmon if you want to read about bad prison systems. There was an organized system throughout the south whereby companies needing free labor would put in a call to the local sheriff, who would then go pull in sufficient young black men on bogus charges of "vagrancy" or "insubordination" or whatever, and then sell them to the companies. Yes, sell -- cash for goods, namely men. This was one of the main sources of income for the counties. The men would disappear into the mines or plantations and never be heard from again. This didn't end in the 1860s; it ended in the NINETEEN 60s.
posted by Fnarf at 12:45 PM on February 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


...wah, Fnarf. That's horrific.
posted by jaduncan at 12:54 PM on February 16, 2012


This didn't end in the 1860s; it ended in the NINETEEN 60s.

I wouldn't be surprised if it is still going on in some places.
posted by steamynachos at 1:03 PM on February 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yes, Slavery By Another Name is eye-opening.
posted by scruss at 1:04 PM on February 16, 2012


The order of the photos is fantastic. It starts with all the drawings and stuff, making the place look kinda groovy, then hits you with the guns and the bizarre graffiti and the drawing of a stabbing or whatever's happening. Then, later, there's a picture of all the guys scattering in front of a bull that made me laugh only the guy dressed the same way on a stretcher to shut me up.
posted by cmoj at 1:08 PM on February 16, 2012


Slavery by Another Name just came out as a documentary on PBS (watch here).
posted by jabo at 1:18 PM on February 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Thanks for that, Jabo. I didn't know.
posted by Fnarf at 1:58 PM on February 16, 2012


Nice, but at least one of those photo's is not safe for work, a NSFW warning would have been handy
posted by benk at 2:42 PM on February 16, 2012


The photos in the final link are really worth a look. Thanks for posting. Feeling a little better about my own employment problems.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 6:27 PM on February 16, 2012


There are some really outstanding photos in that little doc. It's pretty cliched, but the idea that you can tell a lot about a culture by the way they treat their prisoners rings true. I find this a little strange, but the early prison system in the US is extremely well documented photographically.

My brother is the site director at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, which is now a prison museum. At some point they discovered a massive photo archive that documented the history of the prison from day one. There were mug shots of all the prisoners of course, but also things you wouldn't expect to see like the inmates playing baseball, the weapons in the armory, prisoners in the hospital and just everyday life sort of stuff. There is a fantastic collection of scary homemade prison weapons. He wrote a book about the prison photos, this link is the preview from Google Books which actually has a bunch of the photos in it. I'm just amazed that people thought to document prisoners lives so thoroughly, even a century ago.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 6:47 PM on February 16, 2012


Nice, but at least one of those photo's is not safe for work, a NSFW warning would have been handy

America: where you can browse accounts of race exploitation and state-sponsored murder, and yet be surprised to come across something that might offend your boss.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:16 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Johnny Cash visits Cummins Prison in 1969
posted by thisisdrew at 7:44 AM on February 17, 2012


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