The Problems in Our Prisons
In December, Joseph Bernstein wrote about his weekend at prison-riot camp, where he was introduced to new technologies and tactics to suppress uprisings in prisons, whose populations have exploded over the past four decades. At least one prison in Florida and all the state prisons in Colorado impounded the December issue, flagging Bernstein’s article as “dangerously inflammatory” because it “reveals methods used for crowd control and extraction.” Some prisons, however, did deliver the issue to inmates. Here, two incarcerated readers share their reactions.
Thank you for Joseph Bernstein’s vivid and thoughtful essay. I appreciated the honest look at some of the training practices employed in the correctional community. However, I found it hard to believe the presumption that riot-suppression training is responsible for reducing prison riots despite the increased prisoner population. To the contrary, I am more inclined to think that rioting has decreased exactly because of the increase in population.
I have been a guest of the Michigan Department of Corrections for less than seven years and am by no means an expert in rioting, but my more senior comrades are often quick to point out that the prisoner population has gone “soft.” As Bernstein hinted, prisons are filled with many nonviolent offenders lately, people who previously would have had no business behind bars. Thirty years ago, prisons were reserved for hardened career criminals, who, compared with today’s inmates, were much more inclined to turn to organized violence as a problem-solving technique. Modern inmates are not only less prone to violence, but also more likely to employ peaceful means of expressing grievances, or to simply avoid making problems, so they can get home sooner.