Monday, January 08, 2007

Go to Jail. Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Collect $200

A few weeks ago there was a New Year's marathon of the MSNBC television series Lock-up. I recorded it and just recently got around to watching it. I find the show fascinating. However, the one constant I notice is that there are basically two kinds of prisoners: The innocent "victims" who were [1] in the wrong place at the wrong time, [2] were framed and/or [3] were casualties of The Man. Then there are the ones who actually own their guilt.

I especially love the ones who are upset that their TV privileges, books, etc. are taken away for their infraction du jour. One prisoner in particular was pissed when his chess set was confiscated for whatever rule he broke that week. He rattled off a list of jails that he'd been to in the past that didn't do this or allowed that, but this place was hindering his rehabilitation by stripping him of privileges and his playthings! Whatever. I'd say if he's already been in MULTIPLE prisons that the rehabilitation wasn't working long before he got to the prison he currently resides in. Fuck off, drama queen. And don't even get me started on the ones that complain that they're treated "less than human." Um, here's an idea: {whispers} If you don't want to be treated less than human and enjoy your freedom...DON'T GO TO JAIL, ASSHOLE! I swear, some of these people act like they were just standing around minding their own business and WHAM! they were arrested, indicted and put in jail. Whatever.

The marathon covered all aspects of the prison system: Administration, the violent criminals, the first-timers, the lifers, the homosexuals, the gangs, the women prisoners and even the mentally ill.

There were two inmates in particular whose crimes were so heinous that your initial reaction is "Unforgivable." However, after seeing them during their interviews, I surprised myself by actually feeling compassion towards them. What were their crimes, you ask? One committed matricide the other patricide (these were separate crimes, neither inmate was related). But it didn't end there. Basically, one shot his own mother with a rifle...then ate some of her brain. The other inmate slit his father's throat and did the same. As it turns out, they are both Schizophrenic and in need of medication, which they are getting now that they are in prison. The inmate who killed his mother was the saddest one of all because he had obvious tics and seemed more childlike than the other inmate. Seeing him emerge from the prison's store with a clear plastic bag of new socks, all smiles, made me sad. I just don't know if the extent of his crime has ever really sank in. Meanwhile, the other man who had killed his own father, seemed visibly distraught at what he'd done, saying he wished he were dead. He began to cry while relaying his story and again, I felt sorry for him.

Some of the inmates are so extremely mentally ill that they have to be kept in a special ward, separate from everyone else and in a cell that is void of bars, but instead has a heavy steel door with shatterproof glass windows built into it. There was one inmate who had such severe Schizophrenia that he was basically uncontrollable, convinced that he was the head of the FBI. At first it sounds comical, like something out of a sitcom. However, seeing the paranoia firsthand, is unsettling and more than a little disturbing. This particular inmate had written, quite neatly, the words "Chief of the FBI" (both forwards and backwards, so as to be read correctly if on the other side of the door) multiple, MULTIPLE times all over the walls of his cell, as well as all over the windows of his cell door. According to the guard who was interviewed, it had all been written in feces and tinted with mustard, "for color." Yu-ikes.

Of course, there was the fascinating (and frightening) segment where they show you all the various handmade weapons that had been confiscated from inmates over the years. All meticulously fashioned from everything imaginable (turkey legs, the metal support found in the soles of shoes, toothbrushes, melted shampoo bottles, etc.). Most of the weapons were shivs of some kind, though some had been clever enough to fashion some into razors and some had even fashioned what they call "zip guns" from various fragments of metal. There were all calibers of zip guns, ranging from .18 to 32mm!

One of the things I found interesting was a device the prisons use when/if a riot should break out, called a "flash bang." This device is basically a form of hand grenade that emits an explosive report and brilliant flash that basically overloads the senses of those in the vicinity. The particular one they demonstrated on the show also released a barrage of rubber ball bearings. Sweet! It was pretty interesting to watch file footage of a riot that had broken out in the cafeteria, then seeing one of these babies tossed into the mix and seeing everyone collapse to the ground from the shock waves. Wow. I want one of these to take to the mall at Christmas time! Or release at a crowded Wal-Mart on Black Friday. More crappy $12 DVD players for me!!!

And last, but not least, leave it to me to scope out the eyecandy. I teased a friend of mine that I was going to make one of them my new pen-pal, but my friend neglected to see the humor. I insisted that he didn't mean to bludgeon his boyfriend to death, he just got "caught up in the moment" and that I could change him. Everyone has their little idiosyncrasies. LOL! My friend no likee my humor. Still, he was really cute, but waaaay to young to already have fucked up his life so badly. Oh well, I have 40 years to decide whether or not he's the pen-pal for me. The other guy was older and very cute, but also a big ol' loser. Naturally, he "found Jesus" (I didn't even know he was missing) after his SECOND incarceration for the same thing (multiple rape convictions). Whatta catch! Not.

On a positive note, it was nice to see people like Harry Belafonte and Jim Brown are visiting prisons, giving inspirational talks and working with programs like Amer-i-can. Two very gracious, cool and inspiring celebrities.

The show airs back-to-back episodes tonight at 9 and 10, then repeats at 12 and 1. Check local listings for time and channel.


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