Tag Archives | Prisons

A New Panopticon For The Age Of Prison Labor

Post London riots last year, conservative commentators worried that England’s jails resembled a “holiday camp” with too much leisure and not enough unpaid work. Architect Alexis Kalli’s HMPark Life is a set of blueprints and renderings for a hypothetical, fantastical new prison complex, based in part on Dante’s Inferno, to fulfill the needs of today’s society:

With a Government forcing inmates to work a full week for virtually no pay in order to earn their keep, ‘HMPark Life’ is a new prison located in Brockwell Park, South London. It questions this drive to turn a prison population into a cheap labour force, one that works not just to provide skills in the name of ‘rehabilitation’ but forces offenders to be visibly productive and punished to quench the public’s ever present blood thirst for justice.

A public viewing platform perched on the prison’s main circulation core provides an ideal point from which to survey the throng of productive inmates, leaving the public with that sense of satisfaction.

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The California Department Of Corrections Wishes You A Happy Independence Day

What does freedom mean to you? In a much talked about Facebook post, the California Department of Corrections rang in the 4th of July with the below caption and image of a prisoner sewing American flags at ten cents an hour, which they saw as a cheery and appropriate way to commemorate a day celebrating the values of America:

Happy Independence Day from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation! (Photo: A female inmate works on an American flag while working in the Prison Industries Authority Fabrics program at the Central California Women’s Facility.)

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Georgia To Open Prison Just For Veterans

index.phpFrom one system of ridgidly-imposed discipline and control to another ... Russia Today reports:
Authorities in Muscogee County, Georgia say they’ve found a great way to let veterans of US wars share their experience with one another. It’ll just happen behind steel bars and under lock and key.Officials from the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office recently held a press conference to discuss once of the department’s newest endeavors and they believe that it is the first of its kind in the country. Tucked in a corner of the county jail in rural Georgia is a dormitory specifically reserved to house inmates that have fought for America.There ought to be a place in our city that provides a facility where veterans can stay for a period of time while being treated, physically and mentally," Ret. Col. Roy Plummer said, reports the local Ledger-Enquirer...
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Private Prison Corporation Offers To Buy 48 States’ Prisons

3557791151_885f645d7eThis snippet bears repeating: “The company is asking for an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full.” Via Huffington Post:

A Wall Street giant, Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters recently to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for “challenging corrections budgets.” In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

Corrections Corporation has been a swiftly growing business, with revenues expanding more than fivefold since the mid-1990s. The company capitalized on the expansion of state prison systems in the ’80s and ’90s at the height of the so-called ‘war on drugs’. During the past 10 years, it has found new opportunity in the business of locking up undocumented immigrants, as the federal government has contracted with private companies in an aggressive immigrant-detention campaign.

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Using Prisoners As Unpaid Firefighter Squads

Cities and towns from coast to coast are straining under the weight of budget shortfalls, so what are they to do? Lay off essential public employees and replace them with slave labor by prisoners -- it's what Camden County, Georgia is doing in regards to firefighters. Will the next step be unpaid prisoners teaching your kids?
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Making Everyday Objects Deadly: The Art of the Shiv

ShivI've also heard them called shanks, the word itself, "shiv" or "shank," intuitively sounds like their intended use, further relayed with these photos from this article by William Drenttel in Design Observer:
A shiv is a weapon crafted from the limited resources of a prisoner's closed world. Crudely constructed from such things as spoons, shoelaces and upholstery tacks, shivs lie somewhere between the graceful and the grotesque. They're primitive, too — like outsider art, but produced deep on the inside.The individual parts that make up a shiv tend to be everyday objects, innocent things furtively reconstituted as lethal weapons. Each design choice is essential, but what's particularly notable is that shivs, at their core, are not so much evocations of minimalism as they are symbols of survivalism. A shiv is all about masked utility: it's an innocuous object with improbably toxic intent (whether used to attack others or to protect oneself...)
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Prisoners Help Build Patriot Missiles

Patriot MissileFile this in the “in case you missed it” news cycle. Why should the government not hire unemployed Americans to do this …? Noah Shachtman reported back in March on the excellent WIRED’s Danger Room:

This [past] spring, the United Arab Emirates is expected to close a deal for $7 billion dollars’ worth of American arms. Nearly half of the cash will be spent on Patriot missiles, which cost as much as $5.9 million apiece.

But what makes those eye-popping sums even more shocking is that some of the workers manufacturing parts for those Patriot missiles are prisoners, earning as little as 23 cents an hour.

The work is done by Unicor,  previously known as Federal Prison Industries. It’s a government-owned corporation, established during the Depression, that employs about 20,000 inmates in 70 prisons to make everything from clothing to office furniture to solar panels to military electronics.

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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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