Prison Diaries: It’s Not What You Think

I read an article today that fired me up! So, I’m cutting lose a post I held onto because I thought it might be too rough.

The article I read was: “Private Prison Corporation Offers Cash In Exchange For State Prisons”. This private corporation wants to buy prison properties and asks: “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”.

Basically, they want to buy property and expect inmates to convey like appliances.

You can bet State Representative will be receiving letters from me about this, but first I’d like to share with you the real story on Prison life. I am going to share the hard truth, so don’t read on if you feel you can’t handle it.

Over the years I’ve heard many people say things like: “People in prison have it so easy” “They get three square meals a day and lay around watching TV” “They should get what’s comin to them instead of living the easy life in prison”… there is no love, mercy, or grace in those statements, as well as no true understanding of what it is really like in a lot of prisons.

There have been changes throughout the years, so what prison was like 27 years ago is different from today, but not by much. My experience has only been with the State of Georgia prison system, and from what I have heard from others in West Virginia and Maryland, each state handles things differently.

The harsh reality in the 1980’s: (warning to the squeamish – don’t read on)
The first prison where I visited Matthew was an old hospital that they renovated into a prison. The windows were broke out here and there so there was no protection from the rain or snow, there was no heat or air, and there were roaches and rats that far outnumbered the prisoners. At this point in time, guards were beating prisoners with no regulation against it. Guards would tell prisoners to lay on their fold out cots, cover themselves with the wool blankets (in the summer), and the first one to move was beaten with night sticks’.

There were Goon Squads, dressed in all black fatigues, stomping and carrying guns that would visit each prison. Their official purpose was to invade inmate controlled prisons during riots and take back control of the facility, but during the 80’s these goon squads would also visit prisons to “shake down” the prisoners. Shake downs included: Pillow cases over heads, being handcuffed, then beatings. One prisoner was thrown off a balcony and died during one of these “shake downs”. This violence is only the little bit that Matthew has shared with me, and doesn’t include the suicides of young men whose families turned away from them.

What’s new in the new millennium?
Well, today the violence is largely among the prisoners. There have been regulations put in place against guards beating prisoners. The situation now is: Gang members are literally scalping tattoos off of other members, there is at least 2 stabbings a week, one man was killed by being almost entirely decapitated just this last year, and the fights are on the rise. A couple of months ago the prison was shut down for over a week, over 70 prisoners were treated by medical staff for wounds inflicted in the fight. On another occasion this year a group of Muslim prisoners ganged up on a white man and killed him, shutting down the facility for about a week.

When the prison is shut down, the inmates only receive one meal a day, which consists of a bologna sandwich and a piece of fruit. Even on a day when the facility is open, most of the time the food runs out so fast not all prisoners eat that day. The prisoners are lined up outside for over an hour to then be told there is no more food. The meals that are served are not entirely fit to eat, with some of the older men almost dying from salmonella. It takes experience to know what you can eat and what you shouldn’t try to eat. Small cracker packs with mustard or ketchup are dinner to some. The few men with families who send in funds live on snack food like chips, little Debbie cakes, and coffee that they are charged higher prices than we would pay at a gas station to purchase.

Why do I share all this? Because there must be a change: a change in how we see Prison’s, a change in their purpose, and a change in how we run them. My other reason for posting this is to shed light on the reality of prison life, and to tell the truth of what is going on there!

Private companies are given contracts to provide food, are charging enormous prices, and are responsible for the lack of food and poor quality of food being given to prisoners even as I write this.

To allow any private company to purchase prisons/prisoners should be recognized as unconscionable, and should be fought!

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One thought on “Prison Diaries: It’s Not What You Think

  1. Amy,
    This is very good. You are one brave woman, or should I say, God has put Holy Spirit empowerment in you to write these truths down. May God send these blogs wherever they are intended, as the Hold Spirit blows and moves among them.
    Keep writing, Amy.
    Love you,Glenda

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