Prisons are almost impossible for reporters to get inside, and few people know what life inside is like for inmates and guards. But one journalist cracked the shell of secrecy by getting a job as a prison guard. He witnessed cost-cutting measures and reported safety concerns affecting prisoners and staff. On this episode of Reveal, we take an unprecedented look inside the multibillion-dollar private prison industry.
Image: Journalist Shane Bauer gets a job as a guard at a private prison to research a story he’s doing for Mother Jones magazine. Through Shane, we get an unprecedented look inside the billion-dollar private prison industry. CREDIT: Anna Vignet for Reveal
Welcome to the hellhole
Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer gets a job as a guard at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana. The prison is run by the private company Corrections Corporation of America, and over four months, he investigates how the prison is run. Shane buys a pen that doubles as an audio recorder and a watch that takes video. Shane makes it through training and ends up guarding suicide watch on day one of the job, documenting everything he can.
Shane witnesses stabbings, beatings and prisoners threatening to riot inside a private prison on lockdown. The conditions inside Winn Correctional Center, and his duties there as a guard, are getting the better of him.
The prison life is relentless: Shane meets a prisoner who contracted gangrene at Winn and lost his legs and fingers as a result. However, an unexpected offer and a twist of fate change Shane’s status as a guard.