News

What Do TV and Movies Get Right and Wrong About Prisons?

By Matt Stroud

A few months back, when I first started with In These Times, I had a talk with Logan Sachon at The Billfold about what I intended to do with The Prison Complex and why I find prisons so infuriating and fascinating. It was an enjoyable discussion. But when she asked me, “What do TV and movies get right … and what do they get wrong” about prisons, I admitted I didn’t really know; I’ve never served time in a prison, and anything I possess approaching a journalistic expertise about incarceration comes from what I’ve read, conversations I’ve had, and policy discussions I’ve followed.

So I decided to get in touch with some prisoners to see how they’d answer Logan’s question.

In a partnership with Between the Bars — a fascinating site that allows prisoners to blog about whatever they want — this is the first in a hopefully recurring series of posts by prisoners about their daily lives behind bars. Since we’re just getting started here, the prompt is simple: “What do TV and movies get right and what do they get wrong about prisons?” Our first response comes from Jennifer Gann, a prisoner at Kern Valley State Prison in the desert of Southern California about 45 minutes by car northwest of Bakersfield. Kern Valley is a maximum security facility for men with just about 4,100 prisoners.

Jennifer’s letter has been scanned and posted here. The text of her letter follows:

I’m a 44 year old transgender woman activist and prisoner in California. I have been incarcerated for the past 24 years, and I’ve witnessed every imaginable aspect of the prison system from the inside.

Initially, I was sentenced to “seven years” in state prison after being convicted of a robbery charge. I’ll admit that I’m no angel, but I served the time which fit the crime. I’m a drug addict and ex-gang member who has made a lot of mistakes which I now regret.

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PrisonEducation.com News Update

By Christopher Zoukis

It is with great pleasure that I share with you — the Prison Education News readers — some recent developments in our prison education advocacy efforts.  This news concerns several long-term projects that we have been working on behind the scenes and several new projects that we are preparing to engage in.  It has been some time since I have provided such an update, so please allow me to update you sufficiently.

Surprise: “College for Convicts” To Be Published By McFarland! 

The big news of the month concerns my College for Convicts manuscript.  Several months ago I announced that Middle Street Publishing — the same nonprofit which owns and operates PrisonEducation.com and PrisonLawBlog.com — had acquired the rights to my latest prison education text College for Convicts: The Case for a Safer, More Prosperous Country.  Well, it appears as if I spoke too soon.  Several weeks ago McFarland and Company — a very large nonfiction publisher located in North Carolina — approached us concerning this very text.  After several weeks of discussions and negotiations, we’ve come to an agreement.  McFarland and Company will be publishing College for Convicts!  We are currently in the process of signing the contracts and making the requested revisions.  Image courtesy mcfarlandbooks.com

We’re thrilled with this news because McFarland and Company has a significantly larger reach than we do, and they will be able to put College for Convicts into the hands of academics, public policy makers, and libraries the world over.  Their expert backing will allow the College for Convicts project to reach much greater heights and will ensure enhanced staying power.  This is truly a win for the prison education lobby and incarcerated students everywhere.

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