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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dear Lockup Producers

I thoroughly enjoy your television series, but I feel like you are missing fundamental information in your documentaries about issues in the prison system that directly affect the world outside of prison walls.


I’m specifically referring to the privatization of prison companies that run outside of state profits and instead are owned by investors who are constantly making money off of their cash cow facilities. I would like to know, when you go to a prison for a documentary, are they run by the state or are they privately owned? I’m not saying that either system is better than the other, they both need extraordinary over-hauls that I will never see in my life time, but the input and output of economic resources in a privately owned system astounds me. Angela Davis would refer to this phenomenon as the “punishment industry”. I would like to see an episode of Lockup that explores the exportation of products that are “made on the inside to be worn on the outside” as stated in advertising slogans for clothes made inside of prison walls. What is the net economic gain that is produced by free labor in these facilities that you visit? Do your viewers know which companies are using inmate produced products? And even more importantly do they know how cheap, easy, and unfair it is to produce goods from a prison facility? Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans, both advocates for inmate rights, explained the business of the punishment industry the best, saying, “No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries.” Economic exploitation of an imprisoned individual forms no ground for stabilization outside of the prison system upon release. The act of prison profit is virtually generating something out of nothing, and is of absolutely no benefit to the prisoners whatsoever.


Another thing that I am interested in is the mistreatment of incarcerated women. I feel like abuse is undermined in the media because such a small reported percentage of women inhabit the prison population. Unfortunately, the number of women entering the prison system has doubled since the 1970’s as a part of the mass incarceration issue that our country has faced in recent decades. Whether it is sexual abuse or emotional abuse, women are still facing the same hardships on the inside as they are on the outside, and it is necessary for management of such facilities to continue to protect women from becoming victims of sexual violence regardless of their position in our hierarchical society. There are not even the minimum parameters of protection in place for the mass bodies of women being raped by staff and other inmates. Sexual violence is substantially overlooked by authorities who are claiming that it does not exist or that it is too out of control to handle. In a system where ultimate control is the main objective, I find it hard to believe that there is no way to prevent the serious acts of sexual exploitation inside of prison walls. The lack of action from authorities seems to be just another way to oppress the behaviors of females and keep them in constant fear with the threat of assault.

I also strongly believe that your viewers should be enlightened to the lack of respect for an incarcerated pregnant woman. There is an extreme emotional disconnect between a mother and her newborn child solely because of the extra enforcement that restricts the female inmate during her labor. Shackling a pregnant woman during the most highly respected act of child birth is humiliating and cruel. It seems unlikely to me that the pain of delivering a child or the immobilizing abilities of an epidural would allow an inmate to carry out an escape plan while on a gurney. Also, health risks outweigh whatever benefits that the U.S. corrections system receives from such restrictions: examinations and access are limited, pain is increased by the restraints, and finally, the safe practice of medicine in a physician controlled environment is compromised. Contamination of the sterile environment, both physically and mentally, also seems to be a possibility with a corrections officer looming in the corner to oversee the “security threat”. I believe that the invasion of such privacy ruins the most intimate moment for a mother and child, and I am fairly certain that said officer would not use hospital grade sterilization regulations on restraint equipment. Thankfully, the support of respected medical authorities has enabled a proactive movement to eliminate the use of physical restraints in a delivery room. I would be very appreciative if this movement extended to the media also, and I feel like your documentary has the ability to report on such issues.


Overall, prisoners do have the same basic human rights as other citizens. Sadly, when an individual becomes incarcerated, their voice is locked up, also; it is collected and accounted for as with the rest of their belongings to be returned upon release. It is up to advocates on the outside to become the defense for the people who have had their rights literally stripped away from them during every violating search; all remanence removed and all body cavities checked as a continuous reminder that opinions are contraband. We have to protect our fellow females on every level of our society's hierarchy or we are continually not doing enough for them.