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Prison

83 articles
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How Gangs Took Over Prisons

Maintaining order behind bars.

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Modern-Day Slavery in America's Prison Workforce

Inmates work for hours each day and yet have no labor rights.

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The Unknown Soldier

An actor, fresh from prison, attempts to reconnect with his son in 1950s California.

"And he had believed it. Everyone had. Since the day he’d been cast as Lev, Alexi had been aware that he was getting away with something—though, he reasoned, he’d never explicitly lied about anything. He just never told the complete truth. He may have, when asked about his American accent, mentioned the pronunciation workbooks stacked on his family’s kitchen table, as if he, and not just his parents, had pored over them nightly. He may have once, a little drunk at a party, pretended to forget the English words for the pigs in a blanket being passed around. He may have, that night and possibly a few others, begun sentences with, In my country . . . He may have, when asked by the film’s very openly communist director one night over steaks at Musso’s what he thought about Truman, parroted back what he’d overheard at the writers’ table, that he was narrow-minded and ruthless, his doctrine a farce and an affront to civil liberties. He may have, at Stella and Jack’s invitation, attended a number of meetings in their Hancock Park living room, where there may have been some pretty detailed discussions about following their Soviet comrades down whatever path they took. He may have, on one of those evenings, filled out one of the Party membership forms being passed around, simply because everyone else was."

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One Day in the Life of Mikhail Khodorkovsky

The world’s richest prisoner interviewed from the Siberian prison colony he calls home.

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Escape to Alcatraz

On prison tourism.

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A Gated Community

Each year, thousands of people pay to play eighteen holes of golf at Angola, “the largest maximum-security prison in the country.”

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Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons.

“For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows. When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back.”

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Imaginary Monsters Chased Jonny Holden All His Life, Then a Real One Caught Him

A family’s struggle with mental illness and the criminal justice system.

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The Devil and Jeffrey MacDonald

Did a handsome young Green Beret doctor kill his pregnant wife and two daughters? Or, as he claims, did a group of candle-carrying hippies carry out a vicious home invasion while chanting “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs”? A mystery that spanned three decades.

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A Plea to Be Free

Greg Ousley killed his parents and has been locked up for nineteen years.

Is that enough?

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Injustice for All

John MacNeil was convicted by the state of Massachusetts of second-degree murder. He was given a life sentence. He escaped. He was caught. Through an incredible feat of jailhouse lawyering, he somehow got himself paroled and exiled to Canada. Then he came home.

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The Great Taliban Jailbreak

On the escape of hundreds of insurgents from Kandahar’s Sarposa Prison through a tunnel dug from the outside, and an unlikely suspect: the jail’s former warden.

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Lawrence Williams: No Romeo

How a convicted sexual predator emptied the bank accounts and ruined the lives of several women from behind bars.

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Throwaway People

The story of Trina Garnett, “one of approximately 470 prisoners in Pennsylvania serving life without parole for crimes they committed as teenagers.”

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Uncatchable

George Wright spent more time on the lam, 41 years, than any fugitive in American history. Last fall, after being caught in a rural Portuguese village, he told his story.

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The House of Second Chances

On L.A.’s Homeboy Industries, which offers former felons—including at least one disgraced CEO—the chance to work.

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How One Man Escaped From a North Korean Prison Camp

There was torture, starvation, betrayals and executions, but to Shin In Geun, Camp 14—a prison for the political enemies of North Korea—was home. Then one day came the chance to flee.

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The Exoneration of Bennett Barbour

Virginia authorities possess DNA evidence that may exonerate dozens of  convicted men. Why won’t the state say who they are?

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The Gray Box

On solitary confinement:

"Two or three hundred years from now people will look back on this lockdown mania like we look back on the burning of witches."

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Jail Break

In an odd way, crime has fallen off the political landscape. To an extent it's been replaced on the agenda by concern about the dire consequences of mass incarceration. But violent crime itself remains a major area in which the United States lags behind other developed countries. To suggest that smarter management of the criminal justice system could make it less brutal while simultaneously creating large reductions in the quantity of crime sounds utopian. And yet the proposals for parole system reform found in this article are utterly convincing.

-M. Yglesias

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Life, With Dementia

On prisoners with Alzheimer’s disease and their incarcerated caretakers.

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Sixteen-year-old Tara Perry followed her man into crime and madness

Three months before it all started, she'd been a shy sophomore at Aurora Central High School, a member of the soccer and speech teams. Then Randy Miller had come out of prison and back into her world. A 22-year-old former child prostitute and drug dealer, Miller had promised to take her away from a tumultuous and painful home life. But the journey he had in mind led downward, into a terrifying series of home invasions and armed robberies and, finally, a few hours after the King Soopers stickup, to a standoff with state troopers in a small Kansas town.
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Mother’s Boys

In court and visiting prison with the parents of young Russian Nationalists who’ve killed.

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Three Trials for Murder

An unexplainable murder, double jeopardy, and military courts: the strange case of Tim Hennis.

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The Last Prisoner

Pavel Galitsky, 100 years old, blogger and Skyper, survivor of 15 years in Stalin’s Siberian Kolyma mines.

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The Caging of America

On the scandal of our teeming prisons.

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Guantanamo: An Oral History

On Thanksgiving weekend, I received a phone call informing me that we had just captured approximately 300 al-Qaeda and Taliban. I asked all our assistant secretaries and regional bureaus to canvass literally the world to begin to look at what options we had as to where a detention facility could be established. We began to eliminate places for different reasons. One day, in one of our meetings, we sat there puzzled as places continued to be eliminated. An individual from the Department of Justice effectively blurted out, What about Guantánamo?
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Hannah and Andrew

In October 2006 a four-year-old from Corpus Christi named Andrew Burd died mysteriously of salt poisoning. His foster mother, Hannah Overton, was charged with capital murder, vilified from all quarters, and sent to prison for life. But was this churchgoing young woman a vicious child killer? Or had the tragedy claimed its second victim?

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Three at Last!

The West Memphis Three, teenagers who were convicted in 1993 of brutal killings that they certainly did not commit on the basis of local gossip that they were satanists (as evidenced by Metallica fandom), suddenly found themselves released this summer after over 17 years in prison. But what life awaited them?

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Central Booking

A log of the 32 shitless hours that the author spent in the Tombs prison after being arrested during an Occupy Wall Street protest.

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What I Lost in Libya

How an academic found herself imprisoned by Qaddafi.

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In the New Gangland of El Salvador

How LA-style gang life migrated to the slums of San Salvador.

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A Death in Texas

On the U.S. immigration prison-industrial complex.

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The Prison-Industrial Complex

The prison-industrial complex is not only a set of interest groups and institutions. It is also a state of mind. The lure of big money is corrupting the nation's criminal-justice system, replacing notions of public service with a drive for higher profits. The eagerness of elected officials to pass "tough-on-crime" legislation — combined with their unwillingness to disclose the true costs of these laws — has encouraged all sorts of financial improprieties. The inner workings of the prison-industrial complex can be observed in the state of New York, where the prison boom started, transforming the economy of an entire region; in Texas and Tennessee, where private prison companies have thrived; and in California, where the correctional trends of the past two decades have converged and reached extremes.
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"He Never Had Nothing, and He Always Wanted Something."

A profile of lifelong thief and 13-time escapee Chris Gay, aka “Little Houdini.”

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What Happened To Mitrice Richardson?

After acting erratically and trying to skip out on a dinner bill, she was detained briefly in Malibu before being released in the middle of the night. Twenty-four years old and in an unfamiliar area, she had no car, no phone, and no wallet. A year later, her body was found in a nearby canyon. On the search for answers.

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The Prisoners of Guantánamo

The life history of an unassuming Sudanese man, Noor Uthman Muhammed, who has spent the last nine years in Guantánamo Bay prison.

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The Impossible, Inevitable Redemption of Michael Vick

An attempt to sort out whether Vick is truly a changed man or simply a very gifted football player who was bound to be forgiven.

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Renegade Miami Football Booster Spells Out Illicit Benefits to Players

An 11-month investigation ends with a booster, now in prison for a Ponzi scheme, going public with details of how he spent millions on college athletes from 2002 to 2010.

[Shapiro] said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play including bounties for injuring opposing players, travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

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Dispatch From Angola: Faith-Based Slavery in a Louisiana Prison

A first-person account of Louisiana’s prison rodeo in which:

...thousands of visitors drive down this road toward an inmate-constructed, 10,000-seat arena to watch Louisiana’s most feared criminals compete in harrowing events like “convict poker” (four prisoners sit around a card table and are ambushed by a bull; last one seated wins); “guts and glory” (a poker chip is tied to the forehead of a bull and inmates try to grab it off); and the perennial crowd pleaser, “bull riding.” Prisoners can win prize money, but have no chance to practice before entering the ring.

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The Menace Within

The Stanford Prison Experiment, revisited 40 years later.

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'Little Gitmo'

The story of an imam convicted on a suspect terrorism charge and the place he was sent: a jail in the Midwest where nearly all of the prisoners are Muslims.

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Death on Terminal Island

An investigation into the death of Victoria Arellano at a Los Angeles County immigration detention facility.

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O Sister, Where Art Thou?

It is a story that seems almost impossible to believe: a group of female convicts, few of whom had ever played a musical instrument or taken voice lessons, forming a country and western band and becoming, at least in Texas, the Dixie Chicks of their day.
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Anatomy of a Prison

A glimpse into the overcrowded California State Prison, Los Angeles County.

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A Convict's Odyssey

When he was 16, Mark Clements talked his way into four life sentences. Twenty-eight years later, he talked his way out.

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Father and Son, Bunking in G Block

Bernard Peters and his son, Scott, robbed and shot a Salvation Army worker in 1996. Since then, they’ve been sharing a cell at Elmira Correctional Facility.

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Gizmondo's Spectacular Crack-Up

One of the most valuable cars in the world crashes going 200 mph on the Pacific Coast Highway. Its owner claims to be an anti-terrorism officer. In fact, he’s a former executive at a failed software company—and a career criminal. The unraveling of an epic con.

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The Boy from Gitmo

Depending on who you ask, Mohammed Jawad was either 12 or 17 when he was detained. Nobody disputes that he spent seven years at Guantánamo before he was exonerated. The story of a boy who grew up as a detainee.

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Prison Rape and the Government

Prison rape is an epidemic; but the bulk of abuses are not by prisoners themselves, but by guards and other prison workers.

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The Liberation of Lori Berenson

After nearly 15 years in a Peruvian prison, an American woman convicted of aiding a Marxist terrorist group finds parole in Lima full of contradictions.

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The Brand

How a tiny inner core made the Aryan Brotherhood the most feared prison gang in America; coded messages, murders on the outside, and the knowledge that those who are already in for life cannot be punished further.

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The Lords of Rikers

The juvenile ward on Rikers Island is a world of constant violence fueled by gangs and, allegedly, encouraged and overseen by the guards.

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Hellhole

Is long-term solitary confinement torture?

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The Last Resort

Unruly teens from around the world are kidnapped by parental order and sent to ‘behaviour-modification centers’ like Tranquility Bay, a $40,000/year prison-like compound in Jamaica.

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The Wronged Man

“Twenty-two years after being sent to prison for an unspeakable crime he did not commit, Calvin Willis walked out a free man, the 138th American exonerated by DNA evidence. He has won his freedom, yes, but how does a falsely accused man reclaim his life?”

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Sentenced to Life

A first-person rumination on a lifetime spent behind bars.

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The Hit Man Nobody Knows

Dandenis Muñoz Mosquera, a.k.a. “La Quica,” was one of Pablo Escobar’s top killers. Now he’s in a maximum security prison in Colorado. Here’s the thing: for all his crimes, La Quica may not have committed the one that put him away.

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Outcasts: Inmates of the Black Eagle

Russia has ended its death penalty, leaving in its place five prison “colonies” to house its most hardened criminals, nicknamed “The White Swan”, “The Black Dolphin”, “The Vologda Coin”, “The Village of Harps”. Inside “The Black Eagle.”

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The Wrong Man

The cops thought they had captured a fugitive. They had not. Elias Fishburne was a hairdresser from Maryland and was going to jail.

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Innocence Lost

In 1992, Anthony Graves was arrested for brutally murdering a family in the middle of night. He had no motive. There was no physical evidence. The only witness recanted. And yet Graves remains behind bars.

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My Favorite Teacher

Mr. Lindall was the only high school teacher who understood him. Then Mr. Lindall went to jail, and it was his turn to try to understand.

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Guarding Sing Sing

A firsthand account of prison’s dysfunctional relationships. The writer wasn’t able to gain access through official channels, so he completed guard training and took a job as a Sing Sing corrections officer.

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Prison Without Walls

Is letting convicts roam free under electronic surveillance better than putting them behind bars?

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City of Fear

How PCC, once an inmate soccer team and now Brazil’s most notorious prison gang, coordinated seven days of riots throughout São Paulo using mobile phones.

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The Son of Sam’s Social Life

Admiring evangelicals are helping David Berkowitz, the imprisoned serial killer who murdered six people in NYC during the summer of 1977, with an unusual image makeover.

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The Supermax Solution

When New York built a prison designed to house two men in a single cell, it launched a new experiment in crime control. A look at life inside this prison and in the tiny town surrounding it.

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Lost in the Jihad

How the case against John Walker Lindh collapsed.

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Iraq’s Walking Dead

Kurdistan is the safest and most stable region in Iraq and at the center of its modern history is Amna Surak Prison, ground zero for both a genocide and an uprising.

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Bernie Madoff, Free at Last

What’s Madoff like as a prisoner? According to his fellow inmates, he’s cheap (“You couldn’t get an ice-cream cone off him”), he’s unrepentant (“Fuck my victims”), and he’s eager to dole out financial advice.

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This Side of Ultima Thule

A dispatch from the frozen, drunken wasteland of Eastern Siberia.

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The Last Penal Colony

The island of Coiba off the coast of Panama is both a nature preserve and an open-air prison.

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The Caged Life

In 2005, the prisoner who had set the U.S. penal system record for years in solitary confinement was moved to what’s called “the Alcatraz of the Rockies”—a jail in Colorado built just for him.

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A Thief Dines Out, Hoping Later to Eat In

For Gangaram Mahes, Rikers Island was the only chance for three squares and a “decent life.” So Mahes committed the same crime 31 straight times: refusing to pay the check at New York City restaurants.

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Murderabilia

Jeff Mailhot, convicted serial killer, has joined several infamous criminals in a second career from behind bars: paid artist. His first piece? An outline of his left hand, available for $34.99.