“Inside America’s Private Prison System”
A talk by Mother Jones Senior Reporter Shane Bauer about his experience as a corrections officer and the health care issues of inmates at a Louisiana prison
In December 2014, Mother Jones senior reporter Shane Bauer took a job as a corrections officer at a Louisiana prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the country’s second largest private-prison company. During his four months on the job, Bauer would witness stabbings, an escape, lockdowns and interventions by the state Department of Corrections as the company struggled to maintain control over 1,500 inmates. He was paid $9 an hour and was placed in a unit where he and another officer supervised hundreds of inmates. His in-depth narrative and series of videos provide a gripping look inside a prison where both staff and inmates were pushed to the edge. Read the story online.
While at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana, the journalist had an up-close look at the impact of the private prison model on health care. Bauer met inmates struggling to get medical attention, including one who lost his legs and fingers to gangrene after months of neglect. Mental health assistance was minimal. The entire prison had just one part-time psychologist and one part-time psychiatrist. Suicidal inmates were placed in solitary confinement, where they were given meals that fall below USDA caloric standards. Bauer writes about one man who protested the lack of mental health services for years. After being waitlisted for mental health services for two years, he committed suicide. He weighed 71 pounds at the time of his death.
Shane Bauer is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. He is also the co-author, with Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal, of A Sliver of Light, a memoir of his two years as a prisoner in Iran.
To stay up-to-date on Shane Bauer’s work, follow him on Twitter @shane_bauer or go to his website, www.shanebauer.net. To read a Q&A with Bauer about his experience at Winn, go here.