My heart and mind are focused on the men at the J.B. Evans Correctional Center in Newellton, Louisiana, who finally took enough abuse at the private prison that they just refused to leave the yard last Thursday to return to their cells as ordered. Needless to say, all hell -- quite literally -- broke loose. We can only imagine what the SWAT forces dished out by way of "attitude adjustments" because stuff like that isn't exactly covered by the mainstream media. In fact, this is the only mention I could find anywhere in the news about the incident. I wouldn't even know about it if one of my students hadn't written me an email asking if I had any advice for a friend of hers who's worried about one of the prisoners. And now I can't get it off my mind.
Private prisons are a trip, you know. They're profit-making concerns built on the suffering backs of the poor, of addicts, of men, women and even children of color. If you're not yet up on what I'm talking about, check this out:
Sometimes private prison companies will go out in the country somewhere where people are desperate for jobs, build a big prison on spec and then go to the government and say, "We got a whole empty prison out here. You need some cells?" The government, of course, takes them up on the offer and in no time at all, the place is not just full, but overcrowded, with four men in a two-man cell, prisoners living in tents, and three tier bunks in the gym. The result is nightmarish, but these guys -- or women -- should've thought of that before they stuck up the 7-11, right? That is to say, if they actually did something to be there. Because they may not have. Or they may have committed the heinous crime of having a crack stem in their pocket or drinking a beer on parole or showing up at their probation appointment on the wrong day because they moved and didn't get the letter or not having enough money to hire a real lawyer.
Those in the business of wanting to make money by incarcerating millions of U.S. citizens are helped greatly by the fact that 34.5% of 16-to-24-year-old African-American men are currently unemployed because millions of jobs have left the country or just disappeared and because young Black men are statistically less likely to be hired even if qualified for positions. Then, in the effort to make sure that the prisoners will return over and over again (cha ching! cha ching!) -- doing predictable damage on every foray back into the community, I might add -- they make it almost impossible for convicted felons to get jobs after they've "paid their debt to society" (whatever that means). They further ensure a high recidivism rate by making the experience of incarceration as psychologically brutal as possible, as outlined in the following interview with Robert King (who spent 29 years in solitary confinement) and Dr. Terry Kupers:
You don't have to be an old prison movement warhorse like me to get the picture. Over at in sight, in mind, HetGezicht has this to say about her maiden voyage on the good ship Prison Tour.
So my mind is with the men at J.B. Evans tonight. I'll bet they're hungry and cold and physically wounded and scared right now and wishing they were going to be sitting down at table with loved ones tomorrow, too. But they won't be. Still, maybe someone will see this and tell them it's out here in the blogosphere. They may be in hell, but they're not forgotten.