Tag Archives | Prisons

The Architecture of Control

Presidio ModeloArchitecture and design made specifically to control and easily subdue populations is nothing new; architects and urban planners have long recognised the inherent ability of design to affect mood, temperament, and even the physical and social properties of people. Prison design is one such exercise that directly engages the dialogue between space and social control. Via Web Urbanist :

Should architecture be used as a punishment in itself, made as harsh and cruel as possible in a bid to make inmates sorry for what they’ve done, or should it uplift and rehabilitate them, showing them that there’s more to the world than a life of crime?

While some architects boycott prison design altogether so as not to participate in what is often seen as a corrupt and immoral system, others produce (often controversial) designs that revolutionize prisoners’ relationships with their environment, each other and the world at large – for better or worse.

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Which Is Better: Execution By Needle Or Electric Chair?

Electric Chair at Sing SingThat’s the choice given to prisoners in Virginia. Guillaume Decamme reports for AFP:

JARRATT, Virginia — Behind a blue curtain, the electric chair patiently waits its turn to take a life, but on this night in a chamber of a Virginia prison, murder convict Jerry Jackson dies by the needle.

“Fifteen days prior to execution, the inmate is asked which execution method he chooses,” explains David Bass at the Greensville Correctional Center.

“He may choose between the electric chair and the lethal injection.” For the most part, Bass says, “they prefer the injection.”

The man in the dark suit, speaking in a soft southern twang, is all too aware that most of America’s death row inmates pick the poison over the pulse of electrocution.

Of the various execution methods currently in use in the United States — electricity, firing squad, hanging, lethal injection and lethal gas — injection has become the standard.

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‘Kids For Cash’ Judge Gets 28-Year Prison Sentence

ap_Mark_Ciavarella_nt_110818_wgPennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella jailed teenagers for minor offenses (e.g. satirizing a teacher on Myspace) in return for over $1 million in kickbacks from the area’s for-profit youth prison. Mother Sandy Fonzo alleges that Judge Ciavarella is only “the tip of the iceberg” in a practice that is occurring across the country. Fonzo’s star-wrestler son, whom Ciavarella sentenced, committed suicide after spending six months imprisoned among violent offenders as punishment for being caught with a marijuana pipe. In her words, “Judge Ciavarella is proof that for-profit incarceration cannot happen.”

The Kids For Cash scandal involved more than 30 state and local government officials and contractors, says ABC News.

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Iranian Activists Accuse Government of Handing Out Condoms So Political Prisoners Can Be Raped

Evin House of Detention

Photo: Ehsan Iran (CC)

“If the inmate is not powerful enough or guards would not take care of him, he will be certainly raped. Prison guards ignore those who are seen with condoms simply because they were given out to them by the guards at first place” … Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports in the Guardian:

Prison guards in Iran are giving condoms to criminals and encouraging them to systematically rape young opposition activists locked up with them, according to accounts from inside the country’s jail system.

A series of dramatic letters written by prisoners and families of imprisoned activists allege that authorities are intentionally facilitating mass rape and using it as a form of punishment.

Mehdi Mahmoudian, an outspoken member of Iran’s Participation Front, a reformist political party, is among those prisoners who have succeeded in smuggling out letters revealing the extent of rape inside some of the most notorious prisons.

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The Art Of Guantanamo Bay Prisoners

Curious as to what sort of art one makes when experiencing sensory deprivation halfway around the world? Since the beginning of the Obama presidency, inmates at Guantanamo Bay have been given art classes as a reward for good behavior. The BBC has a sampling of their works, many of which touch on themes of isolation or fantasies of home:

Although the prisoners can’t see the sea from the jail — which is located just a few meters away from the coast — nor the Caribbean vegetation that surrounds Guantanamo, many of their works depict islands with palm trees. Others recall their villages or meals reminiscent of home.

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Secret CIA Prisons And Counterterrorism Sites In Somalia

CIASomaliaThere has been news recently of CIA operated secret prisons in Somalia, as well as sites with counterterrorism training for Somali intelligence agencies. Have these secret sites been funded by US tax payers? Via AlterNet:

Nestled in a back corner of Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport is a sprawling walled compound run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Set on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the facility looks like a small gated community, with more than a dozen buildings behind large protective walls and secured by guard towers at each of its four corners. Adjacent to the compound are eight large metal hangars, and the CIA has its own aircraft at the airport. The site, which airport officials and Somali intelligence sources say was completed four months ago, is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access. At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted “combat” operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

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Margarita Island: Venezuela’s Party Prison

jp-04venez1-popupSuppose prison was fun? Venezuela’s San Antonio prison houses 2,000 convicts, including many foreigners from around the globe, mostly convicted on drug charges. They can do anything they want, except leave — there are pool halls, dance parties, swimming, drugs, guns, gender mixing and unlimited visitors. Crazy, yes, but is it any worse than what we have here? The New York Times reports:

Bikini-clad female visitors frolic under the Caribbean sun in an outdoor pool. Marijuana smoke flavors the air. Reggaetón booms from a club filled with grinding couples.

Prisoners barbecue meat while sipping whisky poolside. In some cells, equipped with air-conditioning and DirecTV satellite dishes, inmates relax with wives or girlfriends. (Venezuela, like other Latin American countries, allows conjugal visits.) The children of some inmates swim in one of the prison’s four pools.

Luis Gutiérrez, the warden at San Antonio prison, refused to discuss the prison he nominally oversees. Renowned on Margarita Island as a relatively tranquil place where even visitors can go for sinful weekend partying, is in a class of its own.

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Chinese Prisoners Forced To Play World Of Warcraft

china-prisonIronic — when I was a kid, being locked up in a Chinese prison and “forced” to stay up playing video games all night would have been my dream. The Telegraph reports:

A 54-year-old prisoner at the Jixi labor camp in the northern province of Heilongjiang said he was forced to play games on the internet in order to build up credit that was traded by his guards for real money, a practice known as “gold-farming”.

In an interview with the Guardian, the prisoner said online gaming was a far more lucrative activity for the managers of the labor camp than the physical labor the inmates were forced to do.  “Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labor,” he said. “There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb a day.

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Suboxone: The Hottest Drug In American Prisons

I have a feeling that very few people outside drug addiction recovery programs and prisons have ever heard of Suboxone, let alone the fact that it is sweeping through the U.S. prison system at epidemic rates. Abby Goodnough and Katie Zezima report for the New York Times:

WINDHAM, Me. — Mike Barrett, a corrections officer, ripped open an envelope in the mail room at the Maine Correctional Center here and eyed something suspicious: a Father’s Day card, sent a month early. He carefully felt the card and slit it open, looking for a substance that has made mail call here a different experience of late.

Mr. Barrett and other prison officials nationwide are searching their facilities, mail and visitors for Suboxone, a drug used as a treatment for opiate addiction that has become coveted as contraband.

Suboxone pills. Photo: Supertheman (CC)

Suboxone pills. Photo: Supertheman (CC)

Innovative smugglers have turned crushed Suboxone pills into a paste and spread it under stamps or over children’s artwork, including pages from a princess coloring book found in a New Jersey jail.

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Do Students Eat Like Prisoners?

Good Magazine looks at the similarity between prison meals and children’s school cafeteria food — both rich in starch-y/milk-y goodness, and costing around $2.65 per day to provide. It should also be pointed out that both children and prisoners are daily confined to small spaces and given little opportunity to burn off these massive calorie counts. I suppose school is intended to be practice for where the kids will eventually end up?

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