In Prison Jobs (1), I spoke to the general issue of prisoner employment and pay throughout the United States—50 independent prison systems. In this segment, I’ll address the federal system.
UNICOR Furniture Factory
Most facility jobs, as in the state prison systems, start and pretty much end at 12¢/hr. The major exception is UNICOR.
Relatively speaking, Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR) is a bright spot in the American gulag. Created by Congress back in the midst of the last depression (1934) with the cooperation of gov’t and American unions, it’s controlled by a 5-member Board of Directors appointed by the president. more…
In prison, everyone has a job. I recall one occasion, when a new group of dog trainers were having a meeting, an old prisoner with a walker coming out of his housing unit. He too had been assigned as a trainer.
Factories with Fences
As the meeting among prisoners proceeded on the quad in front of the unit—perhaps 100’ away from the front door—the old guy slowly made his way down the walk. He had an assistant (whose own job was to take care of him).
Just before he got to the group, they finished their business and broke up. The old guy stopped, sighed, and slowly turned around to make his way back.
I recall a conversation I had with his assistant. It seems the old guy was so infirm, that at night he often couldn’t make his way to the bathroom. The assistant’s job in the morning included cleaning him up.
He was a real big-time criminal; he had refused to pay some taxes. more…
While I sat incommunicado in the “hole” for 50 days during 9/11, 2001, the rest of the world reckoned with the latest expression of the terror wing of Islam (as opposed to the Judaic and Christian ones).
(Anyone who questions the relevance of this topic to the “prison experience connection,” has been sleepwalking thru life these past 20+ years…)
I can’t wrap my mind around any overt conspiracy other than the obvious attack by the Wahhabist Saudis who pulled it off.
In any event, its “success” has gone beyond their wildest dreams–and the world’s ongoing nightmare. more…
During the 20 years I’ve spent in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), I’ve witnessed a variety of sexual situations. There was only one that I could consider to have been coerced. The kid (maybe 20) was a nervous wreck and scared like a chicken spotting a hawk.
Sal Mineo & Don Johnson
He was in and out so fast—checked into segregation and was apparently transferred—that I never did get his story. But I have no shortage of others…
FCI Ray Brook, Lake Placid, NY, was a form of international village of prisoners (in fact, it started out as the Athelete’s Village for the 1980 US Winter Olympics). No one ever accused the US of failing to Romanize the world… more…
Perhaps my view of the world is jaded. Maybe the prison experience has somehow made me a bit cynical. But why does it seem that the so-called free-world out there more and more resembles the world in here?
I’ve heard the comment that certain social fashions find their genesis in the prison experience. Such as, having one’s pants barely hanging off your ass, several days growth of beard, hair styles all helter-skelter (probably as close as whites can come to a nappy-do), and pockets and clothing worn inside-out or backwards–some simply simulating the behavior of 4-year-olds. more…
Some years back, I received a notice from the prison mailroom that a letter containing an application form for an absentee ballot was rejected by the prison and sent back. On the notice, the mailroom guard had written, “When you were sent to prison, you lost your right to vote!”
State Prison Populations
Going to the mailroom, I told the supervisor that there was no such law. States determine specific voting laws and they’re all different. Prisoners from some states can vote. The letter had been part of my procedure for checking on the status of my own state.
He snapped that it was federal law, and that I was a federal prisoner. When I asked what law he was talking about, he glared at me and asked, “Who do you plan on voting for?”
When I didn’t answer, he said, “I thought so. Well, you can’t vote. And if you don’t get outta my face right now, I’m gonna kick your fuckin’ teeth down your throat!”
In the final analysis, that’s what prison is all about: Ignorance and the rule of raw power. more…
Just as the U.S. prison system is the largest on the planet, it should be little surprise that it also has more political prisoners than any other nation.
The Cuban 5
One of the groups that is top-heavy in this regard are Cubans. The vast majority—like all other prisoners—are statutory “criminals” guilty of consensual law violations, or “detainees” guilty of nothing more than a failure to have a home acceptable to the INS.
The prevailing public opinion is that Cubans are all anti-Castro and anti-communist. The truth is very different. more…
I recall that one of the more common sights I witnessed in the South of the 1950s and ‘60s were billboard ads: Impeach Earl Warren! Warren was the Chief Justice at the United States Supreme Court.
June 1963 Birmingham, AL
It was almost 100 years since the end of the Civil War when Warren steered the unanimous decision for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), thus overturning the Jim Crow era Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the so-called “separate but equal” racist double-speak decision. more…
Flying Con-Air in 2001 from the Lewisburg to the Atlanta Penitentiaries after 11 years in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), I was intensely curious as to how the South had changed. Especially the prisons.
My initial serious time behind the walls was the 1964-65 period when I was sent to a Tennessee chain-gang. While it was only a misdemeanor case, it managed to stretch into more than a year of hard time.
I was young and full of it; fighting for civil rights, I was convinced I was going to change the world—or at least part of it. There were those just as convinced that I wasn’t. more…
Watching some Wall Street guys testilying before a Congressional Committee on TV, Rufus Readymeat chirped up, “Hey, we got a fucked-up economy here in prison from what those guys are saying!”
Trying not to take the bait, I finally had to ask, “Ruf, what in the world are you talking about?” more…