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Don’t Drop the Soap. The Fascinating World of Prison Shows. by -Z- by -Z-

Lately, I’ve noticed that whenever there’s a prison show on T.V., I stop switching channels.  I find them fascinating.  Some of the shows are about Jail intake, some are about regular prison inmates, and some are about violent crime type criminals.  I watch them all.  Not in a scheduled T.V. Guide kind of way, but when they’re on, I watch them.

I was trying to figure out why prison shows so aptly keep my attention.  I think I figured it out.First of all, the American justice system is fraught with racism and injustice.  Mandatory drug sentencing laws and 3 strike rules (such as in California), have placed exceedingly large numbers of non-violent criminals in prison.  The focus of these prisons is not rehabilitation, but separation from general society.  If you have ever heard or read the work of Angela Davis on prison abolition, you will be familiar with these concepts. 

Probably the three most fascinating and disturbing concepts to me about these shows are:

  • Racial divides and conflict in prison systems;
  • The massive percentage of mentally ill people in prisons; and 
  • The psychological consequences of staying in prison. 

I’ve never been locked up, but since I’m going to assume that T.V. Prison Shows never lie, they’re really jacked.  No matter what folks thought about race relations prior to being in jail, there’s all this ridiculous racial hatred in the joint.  One of the dudes they profiled had been jailed for forging a $300 check.  He never left because he got in some neo-nazi bullshit and stabbed another inmate to death.  Jail forevers.  That’s fucked.  A government funded breeding ground for racial tension.  I’m sure that aids their “rehabilitation”….oh wait. 

As far as mental illness and psychological trauma that prison causes people, those people aren’t getting treatment.  Half the physical altercations that I’ve seen on this show are due to the smallest shit ever.  Some guy on Locked Up Raw last night flipped his shit, and had to be extricated by force from his cell, because the warden took away his chess set.  So many of the inmates they profiled clearly were missing screws, and whether that was due to mental impairment present upon entry, or the development of said impairment, who knows.  I just can’t imagine how 23 hours of seclusion in a tiny room day in and day out can be good for anyone’s mental health.  Is that the POINT of sending people to prison? I don’t think so. 

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be consequences for criminal behavior.  And I’m not saying there aren’t crazy fuckheads that shouldn’t be separate from the population.  But I do think that mandatory drug sentences should be looked at seriously.  Placing non-violent criminals into an incredibly violent atmosphere doesn’t breed anything positive, instead generating hostility, resentment, and unsafe mental states in people.  As far as the rest of the prison system, we should try thinking outside of the box.  People are only too happy to shut others away so they don’t have to think about them.  

Nevertheless, prison shows enthrall me.  Prisoners create their own cultures, they make wine in toilets, and they get incredibly crafty (I guess 23 hrs a day by yourself gives you lots of time to think about what to make a shank out of).  Also, Prison shows on television are a better deterrent than any laws against crimes out there.  Seeing Fred talk about shanking his neighbor who wanted to make him his bitch should be enough to set anyone on the straight and narrow.

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