Since my incarceration, I frequently get the question, “have you seen Orange Is The New Black?”
I hadn’t seen it before my imprisonment, but have binge-watched 2 seasons since my release. Unlike other series, it didn’t take long to get burned out on the tedium of this show. Yes there are similarities with the show and real life incarceration, but keep in mind the series is about prison life and even though the terms are often used interchangeably, prisons and jails are different.
The United States has approximately 1.8 million people behind bars: about 100,000 in federal custody, 1.1 million in state custody, and 600,000 in local jails. Prisons hold inmates convicted of federal or state crimes; jails hold people awaiting trial or serving short sentences. The United States now imprisons more people than any other country in the world—perhaps half a million more than Communist China. The Prison-Industrial Complex
RAMSEY COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
Once you arrive at RCCF, you are photographed, fingerprinted and charged a $20 booking fee. Once you’re booked and given inmate attire, you’re assigned to a housing unit. There are 3 different dorms for women. The main one has cells vs. bunk beds in an open room. I was assigned to the top bunk in Cell #7 and had 10 different “cellies” during my 4 months.(Oh and no pillows unless you have a medical reason to have one).
“Blues & Shoes” Ramsey County Correctional Facility Female Inmate Uniforms
You can’t bring any hygiene items, electronic devices, or other personal items in, but you can purchase items from Inmate Canteen for outrageously exorbitant prices. RCCF inmates are given a hygiene bag after being admitted which includes a plastic cup, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, an elastic hair tie and flip flops. No jewelry is allowed.
RCCF Toothpaste (also worked well as glue)
Pepsodent was the “real” toothpaste that you could order from Inmate Canteen and Suave products were like gold! Shampoo and conditioner was only 4 bucks a bottle. If you had it, you shared it with the dorm. Because I was on the lower tier, I constantly had people knocking on my cell door to “borrow” things, including water from my sink for their ramen noodles.
The 89¢ rubber pen
- No makeup is allowed but inmates do get creative with colored pencils. The pencils also have to be purchased through Inmate Canteen unless you win them as a prize for attending the Learning Center. The Center provides adult basic education programs in reading, writing, math, and GED prep as well as classes on personal finance, job seeking and retention, career exploration, computer skills, and driver’s license preparation and testing.
- Lights on at 6:30am and lights out at 10:30pm (the lights are never really off, just dimmed).
- Inmates are required to stand for count at 11:05am, 5:05pm, and 10;00pm. That means that you are locked in your cell and you must stand by the window in your door to make sure everyone is in the dorm.
- Inmates cannot enter others cells or loiter in front of cell doorways.
- No food from meals can be brought into your cell.
- No note passing or canteen items between dorms.
- Razors can only be used after 6:30pm
- Inmates are allowed 4 books, I bible, and 4 magazines (Perk for working in the library was getting newer magazines before pages were torn out for recipes, decorating ideas, etc.)
- Inmates are only allowed one 20-minute video visit per week using a phone and video camera.
- Inmates get one free, 60-second phone call after being admitted. Legal calls to lawyers and probation officers are free. A listing of free calls is provided to all inmates. Other calls may have a fee that is charged by the minute. Inmates are allowed to make collect calls. The Prison Policy Initiative found that families pay $1 billion annually to call relatives in prison, and until 2013, calls could cost $17 for a 15 minutes (the FCC cracked down on this and those calls now cost $3.75). What Incarceration Costs American Families
- No volume on TV. Must purchase $30 headset to listen.
- $5 to see the nurse
- $15 to have a tooth pulled
Rule violations may result in loss of good time, time spent in security, administrative segregation restitution and/or upward departure of established sanctions
Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment The Eighth Amendment provides “[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” I guess the majority of judges didn’t get the memo!
“Over the last 30 years, for-profit prison corporations, such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation), have benefited from the dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States. Since the advent of prison privatization in the early 1980’s, the number of people behind bars in the US has risen by more than 500 percent to more than 2.2 million people.
The result is an emerging “Treatment Industrial Complex” (TIC) — the movement of the for-profit prison industry into correctional medical care, mental health treatment, and ‘community corrections.’ Community corrections include corrections programs outside of jail or prison walls: probation and parole services including halfway houses; day reporting centers; drug and alcohol treatment programs; home confinement; electronic monitoring; and an array of supportive services such as educational classes and job training. Community corrections is a huge business, with three times as many people under “community corrections” programs as currently incarcerated in prison facilities.
While the prison industrial complex was dependent on incarceration or detention in prisons, jails, and other correctional institutions, this emerging “treatment industrial complex” allows the same corporations (and many new ones) to profit from providing treatment-oriented programs and services.
As a result, this emerging Treatment Industrial Complex has the potential to ensnare more individuals, under increased levels of supervision and surveillance, for increasing lengths of time—in some cases, for the rest of a person’s life. How For-Profit Prison Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat and Rehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain
Law enforcement agencies can also get extra money from federal grants.
Community Corrections – Grants and Funding Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)
BJA supports law enforcement, courts, corrections, treatment, victim services, technology, and prevention initiatives that strengthen the nation’s justice system. BJA offers a Grant Writing and Management Academy and provides funding through a number of programs for corrections.
Federal grants are never free and they almost always come with strings attached. Federal “assistance” allows the feds to dictate state policies and even what the states do with large chunks of their own money.
The bottom line is whether it’s jail or prison, people are being incarcerated for non-violent and non-criminal offenses. It’s the money that drives this system and there is a lot of money to be made from criminalizing nonviolent activities and jailing people for nonviolent offenses.
The essence of nomocracy, the rule of law, is limitation of the discretion of officials, and providing a process by which errors or abuse of discretion can be corrected. Some discretion is unavoidable, because law cannot anticipate every eventuality or how to decide which law may apply to a given situation. What guidance the law cannot provide is supposed to be provided by standard principles of justice and due process, reason, and the facts of each case. Ideally, officials should be mutually consistent and interchangeable, making similar decisions in similar cases, so that no one can gain an undue advantage by choosing the official or exercising undue influence on the official or on the process he operates. We trust officials to exercise such discretion as they have with wisdom, justice, and competence, to avoid government that is arbitrary, insolent, discriminatory, prejudiced, intrusive and corrupt. Abuse of Judicial Discretion~ Jon Roland
We’re definitely past the point of avoiding government that is arbitrary, intrusive and corrupt. The good news is that people are waking up and wising up and starting to demand a governance that will preserve, protect and promote truth, justice and liberty.