Barrett Brown Is Bored Out of His Mind in Jail
Earlier today, Barrett Brown’s legal counsel sent us this letter on behalf of their imprisoned client. They’ve told us to expect more writing from Barrett Brown in the near future.
Like a lot of pompous, insufferable people, I didn’t watch television when I was previously “out in the world,” as my fellow inmates say. And if I were being held in a regular federal facility like a normal detainee, I wouldn’t be exposed to it while incarcerated if I preferred to avoid it. This is because federal prisons (along with holding facilities where inmates await trial) are relatively humane affairs equipped with separate areas for various activities—for instance, sleeping and watching television are done in distinctly different rooms. The problem is that all the federal facilities here in the Northern District of Texas were filled up with inmates awaiting trial or sentencing when I became incarcerated. This isn’t simply because Texans are an inherently criminal bunch—although of course they are—but rather because, in addition to prosecuting actual crimes against property and persons, the federal government is also in a great big contest with the Chinese to see who can imprison the most people for bullshit non-crimes like selling drugs.
At the same time, Congress has decided that the best way of dealing with illegal immigrants from Mexico who threaten to increase our GDP is to imprison them at great expense to the public. There are other factors at play here, all of which point to the ongoing degeneracy of the American people. Suffice to say, because of Texas’ booming incarceration industry, I was not one of those lucky-ducky federal inmates who got to kick back in a real live federal facility—because these babies are filled to the brim. Rather, I’m “housed,” as they call it, in a privately-run city facility used for government overflow. And this place is filled up, too. Nor was it built to house people for more than a few days or perhaps weeks; until a couple of years ago, it functioned as a lock-up for area arrestees while they awaited transit elsewhere. As such, my fellow inmates and I spend our time in cramped eight-man cells opening on to a day room the size of the cheapest Manhattan apartment that’s shared by 24 men. A few times a week we get to go outside onto a caged concrete strip and walk back and forth for an hour. This comprises our world, and is where I’ve spent most of the past year.
Corporations Are Cashing in on California’s Prison Overcrowding Crisis
For years, California’s massive, out-of-control inmate population has been a cash cow for the prison industry. Now, with the state being forced by the courts to reduce the number of men and women it’s keeping in boxes, the prison profiteers—including both corporations and prison guard unions—are trying to squeeze every cent they can out of the government.
The number of prisoners in California peaked in 2006 at 163,000, which was far too many for the system’s 33 detention centers to handle—inmates were sleeping on bunk beds in gyms converted into improvised dorms. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that these conditions constituted cruel and unusual punishment and ordered the state to reduce the prison population to 110,000.
Officials have been trying to get that number down by shipping inmates to county jails and out-of-state facilities, as well as letting a few go out on parole. But in late September, the state still had nearly 10,000 more bodies in prison than the courts want. Governor Jerry Brown has been frantically negotiating with judges to give him more time to comply with their order; simultaneously, he’s been desperately seeking a way to reduce the prison population without letting anyone go free. Most recently, he cut a deal to pay private prison contractor the GEO Group $150 million over five years to take 1,400 inmates off the state’s hands.
Daaam! Look at this prison guard who’s having a cop-killer’s baby after banging him behind bars:
A federal prison guard was charged Tuesday with having an illegal affair with an inmate convicted in one of New York’s most notorious police killings, later becoming pregnant with his child.
Gonzalez was seen by other inmates going in and out of Wilson’s cell starting in March, meeting him in a vacant activity room next to his cell when other inmates were supposed to be sleeping.
Usually I refrain from passing judgment on others, but she must be one burnt cookie. Over the years I’ve spent incarcerated, I’ve definitely run into a few slags working for Corrections, even a few nontraditional men lookin’ to get their dinky stinky. My most recent haunt in the bucolic burbs of NYC had a couple COs who got their jollies messin’ with convicts and supposedly jerkin’ ’em off between the cell bars.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—some COs are severe scumbags. They have complete control over their inmates, and pretty much they have to do to get that job is take a test and make sure there’s no felonies on their records. COs have this weapon called “disobeying a direct order” that essentially allows them to do whatever they want to you, and some of them abuse this directive thoroughly. Let’s say they hate you ‘cause you wear your pants around your ankles and diddy-bop around the dorm like you’re King Felix or something; the CO can order you to scrub a shitty toilet even though it’s not your job. If you refuse, you might get a ticket for disobeying a direct order, which will cost anywhere between $5 and $25—and that’s a ton of money in jail, so them shits hurt. A ticket like that can be beat at a hearing where you sit with a sergeant or lieutenant, but if those dudes don’t like you or like looking at the CO’s tits you’re shit out of luck.
Holidays in Jail
For the 2 million Americans in prison, the holidays are a terrible time. It’s terrible for their family members too—they’re trying to enjoy what should be the most wonderful time of the year, and then they receive that automated collect call recording from prison. I have nightmares about those calls. Even though getting phone calls and visits are a blessing, I feel like such a piece of guilty shameful shit every time I get one, especially around Christmas time. What’s worse than not being able to give your family and your girl presents on Xmas ‘cause you’re a fucking idiot who got caught doing dumb shit?
Lamentably, I’ve spent the majority of the past decade’s Christmases locked up. I try to imagine I’m a tough son of a bitch and this doesn’t affect me, but I tell you, it’s mega-hard not to succumb to the depression. It’s a test of emotional strength to even watch TV, read the newspaper, or listen to the radio with the constant bombardment of all the holiday glory going on in the real world while we’re locked down. Some convicts try to celebrate Xmas in the stinky clink-clink and make the most of it, whereas I try my hardest to pretend it doesn’t exist, although that’s always pretty much impossible when I have to call home and eat that shit sandwich.
How to Survive Prison if You Are a Princess
One of my besties, a modern recreation of a Clueless Valley Girl, just spent three days in a prison in Ottawa. After some radio silence and a no-show at a party I was having, I received a text message from Sadie (not her actual name) that said, “Hi, I have a legit reason for not coming out, I just spent 3 days in jail xoxox.”
I stared at the text message as I wondered how she must have felt in jail. A mere week prior to her stint in “the slammer,”* she was paying cab drivers to fetch her midnight snacks. For “legal reasons” she said she couldn’t tell me the exact nature of her crime, but she said she would’ve spent a month in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre if she hadn’t been bailed out by a generous family member. Which sounds serious-ish. I usually call Sadie when I need to know which company makes the best weaves or glittery eyeshadow, but this time my phone call was a rather exploitative one. She immediately obliged when I asked to do an interview while she was on house arrest. Listening to her story confirmed my long-held suspicion that I would probably die if I ever went to jail.
Locals jokingly refer to the jail she was in as “Holiday Innes” due to its location on Innes Road in suburban Ottawa. But the ironic nickname suggests something a lot more sinister. Some professional research (Google) led me to this story, which discusses the prison’s majorly bad vibes (and lack of soap and abundance of creepy-crawlies, YUK).
If you’re reading this, that means you’re a VICE reader, and are probably a bit of “a Sadie” yourself. So here, princess, is what you should expect if you ever get sent to “the big house.”*
*There are no euphemisms for jail that aren’t lame.
FRIENDS IN JAIL
Give your food away or get your ass kicked, says Sadie. “The food was disgusting, I didn’t eat for three days. I also gave it to my schizophrenic cellmate who had cornrows. She literally threatened to kick my ass if I didn’t give her my food.” Is food truly that big of a deal? According to Sadie, yes. “This woman said she would put money into my jail account if I gave her all my sugar. I said, ‘Look, you can just have all my sugar.’” Cornrows was also turning tricks to make some extra cash inside. “She charged 15 dollars.” Payment would be transferred to her jail account.
This is an account that family members, friends, or anyone else can deposit money into. Sadie said if you wanted to buy a tampon, it’s one dollar. Otherwise, they give you a pad when Aunt Flow comes knocking. Inmates can also pay for a hairbrush, Chapstick, or extra snacks. This is also the account your female “Johns” can put money into if you decide to become a sex worker during your stint in prison.
I’m not really qualified for this kind of advice, but I’m not entirely certain that this is a wise career move. Gambling would perhaps be a lot more advantageous.
Satanic Panic, Paradise Lost, & a Peter Jackson Film Adaptation: The Robbed Innocence of the West Memphis Three.
Read the interview