One thing to know about me is that I am obsessed with prisons. I don’t know what it is or how it all began, but I do know that there’s something about this segregated subculture that fascinates me. It could be the power play between inmates and correctional officers (and even between inmates themselves). It could also be the complexities within each prison: the rules and regulations each inmate must follow in order to survive (both lawfully and unlawfully systematic).
Whatever the case, I only grew to love prisons more when I took a “Prisons, Punishment, and Democracy” course as a senior in college. It was there that I learned how prisons are essentially a business, which means that as long as someone is making a profit, the “business” will continue regardless of who is institutionalized. In other words, since it is a “business,” they have to continue selling their products—or rather, filling a quota. I won’t bore you with the details of how many shades of gray are involved with the prison industrial complex—and not black and white as Reagan first had us believe—but I will say that the problems are far and many.
And what I love about the many television shows and films that represent penitentiaries’ intricacies is that they are simultaneously illustrating depth in their characters. Take “Prison Break” for example. To me, Alex Mahone (William Fichtner) is one of the richest characters written for the show. He begins as a federal agent, whose job is to bring down the eight fugitives. We should root for him because he’s bringing down the bad guys. But we really want—and need—Scofield and tow to never get caught. But that is only one layer of good vs. evil. We also learn that because he’s been doing this for 14 years, his sanity has reached a certain breaking point. He has his own skeletons in the closet (which I won’t spoil for you), and that only helps to provide the intensity and richness of his character. What’s more, his past actions dictate his every move from there on out. I get goose bumps thinking of all the amazing scenes he’s done. (I was going to show a clip, but every YouTube video is fan-made with annoying music.)
“The escaped man is still human. He is still afraid, and he will stop at nothing in his attempt at flight”
Here’s a trailer for the first season of this amazing show.
Other great shows that I’ve been catching up on are the reality series on the Nat Geo and MSNBC networks, “Lockup” and “Lockdown.” They give insight into the daily lives of prisoners and are sub-categorized per every few episodes by themes, including location, specific officer duties, types of correctional facilities, etc. Check these out!