The government’s back in business with private prisons. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed the Obama-era decision to phase out federal use of corporate-run prisons. By Reveal staff. Image: Anna Vignet for Reveal.
On this episode, Reveal revisits an hour with Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer, who takes you inside a private prison on lockdown.
Prisons are almost impossible for reporters to get inside, and few people know what life inside is like for inmates and guards. But Bauer 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.
Welcome to the hellhole
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 – now known as CoreCivic – and over four months, he investigates how the prison is run. He buys a pen that doubles as an audio recorder and a watch that takes video. He makes it through training and ends up guarding suicide watch on day one of the job, documenting everything he can.
Bauer 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: Bauer 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 his status as a guard.