Get this free-ass, easy-ass money, and go home. I know a dude still rolling. Another lifts the podium over his head and runs with it across the gym. The coach shouts, exasperated, as prisoners scramble around. Inmates run this bitch, son.
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A week later, Mr. Tucker tells us to come in early to do shakedowns. The sky is barely lit as I stand on the walk at with the other cadets. Collinsworth tells us another prisoner offered to buy his watch. The inmate declined.
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They got it on cards. Little money cards and shit. Collinsworth jumps up and down. Hell yeah. And I will not report it. Officially, inmates are only allowed to keep money in special prison-operated accounts that can be used at the canteen. Their families can also deposit money in the accounts. The prepaid cash cards Willis is referring to are called Green Dots, and they are the currency of the illicit prison economy. Connections on the outside buy them online, then pass on the account numbers in encoded messages through the mail or during visits. Inmates with contraband cellphones can do all these transactions themselves, buying the cards and handing out strips of paper as payments for drugs or phones or whatever else.
Miss Stirling divulges that an inmate gave her the digits of a money card as a Christmas gift. I need a new MK watch. I need a new purse. I need some new jeans. I just keep it in the open. Tucker tells us to follow him.
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We shake down tiers all morning. By the time we finish at 11, everyone is exhausted. Christian pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket and reads off a string of numbers in a show-offy way. Christian hands the slip of paper to one of the cadets, a middle-aged white woman. The metal door clicks open and we enter to a cacophony of shouting and pounding on metal.
An alarm is sounding and the air smells strongly of smoke. On one wall is a mural of a prison nestled among dark mountains and shrouded in storm clouds, lightning striking the guard towers and an enormous, screeching bald eagle descending with a giant pair of handcuffs in its talons. Toward the end of a long hall of cells, an officer in a black SWAT-style uniform stands ready with a pepper-ball gun. Another man in black is pulling burnt parts of a mattress out of a cell.
Cypress can hold up to inmates; most of the eight-by-eight-foot cells have two prisoners in them. The cells look like tombs; men lie in their bunks, wrapped in blankets, staring at the walls.
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Many are lit only by the light from the hallway. In one, an inmate is washing his clothes in his toilet. He grips my hand. SORT teams are trained to suppress riots, rescue hostages, extract inmates from their cells, and neutralize violent prisoners. I get a whiff of feces that quickly becomes overpowering. On one of the tiers, a brown liquid oozes out of a bottle on the floor. Food, wads of paper, and garbage are all over the ground. I spot a Coke can, charred black, with a piece of cloth sticking out of it like a fuse.
No rec time. We just sit in our cells all day. What else are we going to do? You know how we get these officers to respect us? Either that or throw them to the floor. Then they respect us. I ask one of the regular white-shirted COs what an average day in seg looks like. They are supposed to walk up and down the eight tiers every 30 minutes to check on the inmates, but he says they never do that.
CCA says it had no knowledge of guards at Winn skipping security checks before I inquired about it. Collinsworth is walking around with a big smile on his face. The sound explodes down the cement hallway. Collinsworth and the CO he is shadowing move another inmate from his cell. The inmate tries to walk ahead as the CO holds him. I take a few inmates out of their cells, too, walking each one a hundred feet or so to disciplinary court with my hand around one of his elbows. One pulls against my grip. A SORT officer rushes over and grabs him. My heart races.
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One of the white-shirted officers takes me aside. If he keeps going, we are authorized to knee him in the back of the leg and drop him to the concrete.
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Inmates shout at me as I walk back down the tier. I like them holes in your ears, CO. Come in here with me. Give me that booty! At lunchtime, Collinsworth, Reynolds, and I go back to the training room. Your support allows us to go where others in the media do not: Make a tax-deductible donation today.
That we are scraping the bottom of the barrel. I actually took their pictures and fingerprinted them.
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There is much about the history of CCA the video does not teach. The idea of privatizing prisons originated in the early s with Beasley and fellow businessman Doctor Robert Crants. The year after Hutto joined CCA, he became the head of the American Correctional Association, the largest prison association in the world. Beasley and Crants ran the business a lot like a hotel chain, charging the government a daily rate for each inmate. The s were a good time to get into the incarceration business.
The prison population was skyrocketing, the drug war was heating up, the length of sentences was increasing, and states were starting to mandate that prisoners serve at least 85 percent of their terms. Prisons in many states were filled beyond capacity. The bid was unsuccessful, but it planted an idea in the minds of politicians across the country: They could outsource prison management and save money in the process.
Privatization also gave states a way to quickly expand their prison systems without taking on new debt. In the perfect marriage of fiscal and tough-on-crime conservatism, the companies would fund and construct new lockups while the courts would keep them full.