Shane Bauer spent four months (aka a University summer) working in a private prison in Louisiana.i
He herebelow provides a functional glimpse inside the inner workings of the USSA prison-industrial complex.ii As one of the few industries worth the mention extant in that desolate excuse for an “Exceptional Empire,” private prisonsiii are growing like a cock on prom night, serving as the (scoliotic) backbone of the fundamentally necessary slave empire that’s now “illegal” but quite unavoidable, entirely essential, and correspondingly rebranded as the “justice system.” Thank Abe!
You, the Citizen of Fiat, on this most glorious of Days of Independence, might like to think of yourself as free ; whereas those poor, largely African American inmates crowding the cells and cages you saw on CNN Tonight, are prisoners. But a deeper investigation of the differences between your life and his may reveal more similarities than you care to stomach. In fact, that’s exactly my hope. So without further ado, here’s what Shane saw on the “inside” and what you can realistically expect in a neighbourhood near you very, very soon.
He asks us what we should do if we see two inmates stabbing each other.
“I’d probably call somebody,” a cadet offers.
“I’d sit there and holler ‘stop,'” says a veteran guard.
Mr. Tucker points at her. “Damn right. That’s it. If they don’t pay attention to you, hey, there ain’t nothing else you can do.”
He cups his hands around his mouth. “Stop fighting,” he says to some invisible prisoners. “I said, ‘Stop fighting.'” His voice is nonchalant. “Y’all ain’t go’ to stop, huh?” He makes like he’s backing out of a door and slams it shut. “Leave your ass in there!”
“Somebody’s go’ win. Somebody’s go’ lose. They both might lose, but hey, did you do your job? Hell yeah!”
Basically, should violence so happen to be interested in you, regardless of whether you’re interested in it or not, and quite in spite of whatever pretenses to “civility” you may hold dear and “true,” police officers, teachers, etc. are paid plenty well,iv but they aren’t paid well enough to stick their neck out on the line for you, at least not for any values of you en masse. So if you think for a second that you can delegate the use of force, or anything else for that matter, it’s only a matter of time before you end up on the wrong side of the war.
We walk past the squat, dull buildings that house visitation, programming, the infirmary, and a church with a wrought-iron gate shaped into the words “Freedom Chapel.” Beyond it there is a mural of a fighter jet dropping a bomb into a mountain lake, water blasting skyward, and a giant bald eagle soaring overhead, backgrounded by an American flag. At the top of the T we take a left, past the chow hall and the canteen, where inmates can buy snacks, toiletries, tobacco, music players, and batteries.
Churches, “Make America Great Again” posters, and stores with mile-long line-ups selling only the bare essentials. It could be yesterday’s Soviet Russia. It could be latter day USSA. Not like the history books will much distinguish. So why should we ?
Nearby are a microwave, a telephone, and a Jpay machine, where inmates pay to download songs onto their portable players and send short, monitored emails for about 30 cents each. Each tier also has a TV room, which fills up every weekday at 12:30 p.m. for the prison’s most popular show, The Young and the Restless.
This description of amenities and proclivities already maps pretty decently to the life of University grads in the USSA. Trudging woefully under $100k of debt for a “social sciences” degree, attending conpherences in the hopes of meeting someone dumb enough to pay them to breathe, these snivelling apes would do anything other than bathe to join a kommunitteee so progressive as to have Jpay machines. It’s like totally the sharing economy man! And Young and the Restless ? That’s basically the #Etherape soap for the less technologically inclined.
A small group of inmates get up from their beds and file into the shower area. One, his body covered with tattoos, gets in the shower in front of me, pulls off his shirt and shorts, and hands them to me to inspect. “Do a one-finger lift, turn around, bend, squat, cough,” Christian orders. In one fluid motion, the man lifts his penis, opens his mouth, lifts his tongue, spins around with his ass facing me, squats, and coughs. He hands me his sandals and shows me the soles of his feet. I hand him his clothes and he puts his shorts on, walks past me, and nods respectfully.
This procedure of bending, coughing, and squating is already indistinguishable from TSA screening at LAX. Solutions for sane people to avoid this nuisance ? 1. Don’t travel stateside ; 2. Brainwallets ; 3. Don’t travel stateside.
As we shake down the tier, a prisoner comes out of the TV room to get a better look at Miss Stirling, and she yells at him to go back in. He does.
“Thank you,” she says.
“Did she just say thank you?” Christian asks. A bunch of COs scoff.
“Don’t ever say thank you,” a woman CO tells her. “That takes the power away from it.”
This is actually excellent advice for parents aspiring to competence. DON’T EVER SAY THANK YOU. Timmy took out the trash ? Good for fucking him, he gets to eat dinner and have a warm, dry place to sleep.v Unless he wants to trade you and wifey in at the Parents Store for new ones, he can do his fucking chores and he can like it.
“Nah. Ain’t no chance,” the inmate says. “I ain’t never heard of nobody movin’ good and low-key gettin’ caught. Nah. I know a dude still rolling. He been doin’ it six years.” He looks at Collinsworth. “Easy.”
Does this phenomenon of insider dealing map to any other bureaucratic organisation you can think of ? The NSA perhaps ? It’s one thing to get asses in seats “working” for you on Day 1. It’s quite another to have them buy into your causevi with the religiously zealotry required to keep them straight come Day 2. Ergo, we win.
Officially, inmates are only allowed to keep money in special prison-operated accounts that can be used at the canteen. In these accounts, prisoners with jobs receive their wages, which may be as little as 2 cents an hour for a dishwasher and as much as 20 cents for a sewing-machine operator at Winn’s garment factory.
OMIGERD U GUISE 20 CENTZ AN OWER IZNUT A LEABING WAJE!!ELEVAN
Shut the fuck up, Timmy. You’re competing with China now. On China’s terms too. The dark little secret about the growth experienced by the prison-industrial complex to date is that it’s ~the only way to extract value out of UStard orcs at globally competitive rates. So ya, mandatory minimum sentences aren’t going anywhere. It’s basically the manufacturing base’s lifeline at this point.vii
The prepaid cash cards Willis is referring to are called Green Dots, and they are the currency of the illicit prison economy. Connections on the outside buy them online, then pass on the account numbers in encoded messages through the mail or during visits. Inmates with contraband cellphones can do all these transactions themselves, buying the cards and handing out strips of paper as payments for drugs or phones or whatever else.
This is something of an aside lest any econophasters be reading this, particularly those who continue to maintain any delusions as to the “state theory of money.” If that’s you, go fuck yourselves with a stolen cellphone you ivory tower fucks. No one needs your parasitic incompetency.
Miss Roberts opens a letter with several pages of colorful child’s drawings. “Now, see like this one, it’s not allowed because they’re not allowed to get anything that’s crayon,” she says. I presume this is for the same reason we remove stamps; crayon could be a vehicle for drugs. There are so many letters from children—little hands outlined, little stockings glued to the inside of cards—that we rip out and throw in the trash.
Y’see this shit ? Crayons might contain drugs. Just like your status updates might contain hidden terrorist messages. Best we censor them.viii JIC. Let’s also make “child-proof” medicine caps. Because otherwise we’d have to admit that we were irrelevant and knew it all along, neh ?
The rest of Shaun’s report from
the inside Everywhere, USSA continues on for another 10k words thusly. So ya. They’re trying to build a prison.ix Just like those Armenian kidsx told you 15 years ago. The bureaucracy doesn’t have a choice.
Do you ?
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- Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world at 800 prisoners per 100`000 residents. [↩]
- Whether you’re formally “charged” and “convicted” makes little difference at this point. Americans are criminals for the simple fact of having been born to stupid parents. Nature’s cruel like that. [↩]
- “Private,” really. To the extent that sufficiently large organisations are TBTF, they’re public goddamit. [↩]
- At least in this not-yet-so-poorfaggy province. [↩]
- Nevermind the piano lessons, golf lessons, and the rest of the rapetasticly expensive shit that middle-upper class kids keep busier than CEOs with. [↩]
- Causes are perhaps more commonly known as “workplace culture” but fuck me if there isn’t a more pathetic and contemptible term today. It conjures up images of the kinds of out-and-out scams (ie. prisons for “independent” women) perpetuated by offices with water coolers. [↩]
- You think minimum wage laws need be obeyed anymore than the income tax laws ? Ha. And ha again. Don’t be a rube. It’s only illegal if you’re caught. And if you’re caught and don’t have the right WoT. And you’re poor. Etc. [↩]
- FTR I’m not even against this. Freedom of speech is earned (over generations), not given. [↩]
- Even though, like Shaun’s prison, it’s highly dysfunctional at combatting the will of actual people, it’s plenty effective at corralling the 99%. Not a bad strategy, it must be said. Though it’s not as if the Soviet model had an alternative ending. Choose your own adventure ? Ha! [↩]
- System of a Down – Prison Song. Released on Toxicity, 2001. [↩]