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March 28, 2007

Worse Than Slavery Questions 1 & 5 [GROUP: Caitlin Hewitt, Gregory Shapiro, Holly Sprenger, Johanna Zabawa, Jorn Sakobsen, Mitch Metty]

1. In what ways did each of these penal institutions resemble slavery?
A. Convict Leasing: A way to continue slavery after its abolition

-Economic Aims:
plantations were able to obtain cheap labor

-Conceptions of race and African-Americans inherent characteristics:
Many individuals felt that African-Americans were inherently savage and unintelligent and that without slavery or the convict lease system they would not be able to survive; the sentiment was that African Americans were just as dependent on slavery and the lease system as whites were but for different reasons

-Functions and practices of the "keepers":
convict lease bosses: in charge of contracting the laborers out
prison sergeants: in charge of the trustees, laborers, prisoners; maintain order and control

-The Trusty System:
the prisoners who worked their way up and worked alongside the guards; it was their job to shoot people who tired to escape; they were pardoned if they shot someone

-Means of maintaining prisoner/laborers:
all white juries, judges; increaesd rates of arrest when labor was needed
Resembles slavery in that blacks were a major target. Jails were originally built for whites but quickly turned black with the convict leasing system.

-Roles of the State/Governement:
it was their job to produce the laborers; they were profiting from it; created laws to pubish petty crimes harshly

5. To what examples in this book would a Durkheimian scholar refer to support his or her conception of punishment?

-Convict leasing system was an emotional response to the abolition of slavery
-fear that blacks would have the same rights as whites
-blacks had to be deviant to survive so this could be a punishment for violating the norms/rules of society
-violation of the collective conscience just by being black--when slavery was abolished the old collective conscience, i.e., the idea that blacks were inferior, was violated

[group ran out of time to discuss this question further]

Determinante vs Indeterminite Sentencing

I have been reading some of the Blog entries on "The Farm", and the real debate is back to what we discussed in class. Which sentencing model is better. On one hand, indeterminate sentincing is useful because it encourages activity and reform. On the other, determinate sentencing allows someone to know what their punishment is, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Ideally, we need to combine both models into one. What I feel needs to happen is that someone is sentenced with a set punishment, and they have the "Option" to participate in programs and discussions. This allows those who actually want to reform to be able to. The problem is that if you incent someone to do this, you are basically using an indeterminante sentecing model without calling it that. I don't have the perfect answer, but I also don't think that forcing/enticing people to gain education/reformation is appropriate. If someone does not want to learn/improve, they will not. They may go throught the motions, but they will not take it to heart. If someone wants to educate/improve, they will try and accept what is being provided.

Another problem I see with Indeterminite sentencing is those who may lack the education or mental ability to participate in programs. We are basically at that point locking them up and throwing away the key. One thing I remember from "The Farm" is the warden discussing that when they work the prisoners, they have less issues within the prison. I think making the prisoners perform labor and/or education not only helps reduce prison costs (production of goods), but also helps to improve society as a whole. Not necessarily in Angola, but other prisons in the US, most inmates will eventually return to society. By making inmates work/educate they can be more productive members of society (Marxist view).

I also have the feeling that prisons today have become too comfortable. I like how Angola is run, since they force inmates to work/educate, and not lay around watching TV. By making prison comfortable, you make no incentive for the inmate to want to leave. (Less Eligibility) If they have no ties to the outside, why should they try and improve? I think that prison inmates should be mandated to labor/education. I chose labor and education because they need to do something. Labor is usually easier to enforce, and more accepted by those who may have insecurities about education. Education should be available to those who choose to attend. This not only will keep inmates busy, but also may/can install a pride into the inmate. I noticed on a different documentary I was watching where an inmate was "working" on a horse ranch. This inmate enjoyed working there, and had an emotional tie to his job. This caused him to behave himself for the fear of losing his privilage of working there. This can be related directly as deterence in mainstream society. If someone is emotionally tied to something, they may reconsider their actions for fear of losing that which they enjoy.

Jon Doll

The Farm and class.

Hello Class,
After watching the farm, I was so concerned with the maltreatment of the prisoners thatI was ultimately moved by that rather than thinking about social theory. Maybe it is my liberal bleeding heart that wishes that we would all live in world peace. (nieve and ridiculous) After a portion of last class it became aparent that many were emotionally strichen by the visuals and the aim of the director of the movie. I decided to watch it again to improve upon my reaction. This time I saw a little of each theorist. I also believe that this shows a little of the rehabilitative quality of the prison. Most of the inmates had inwardly changed and it is a hallmark of the rehabilitative ideal. These men took an inward look and tried to change. The farm does show the problem with indeterminant sentancing and the problem with the parole board. It helped to understand the constant anticipation an inmate could have of possibly getting out, after having what he thought to be an opportunity to get out shot down with little or no thought of the parole board. The parole board as well used this opportunity to punish the prisoner once again even though the prisoner had already been punished. All in all the prison life at angola prision, seemed to be oppresive, and undetermined living in a place where you are a constant subordinate showing the marxian side of prison.

An apology to the class.

I want to take this time to apologize to Prof. Page and to the whole class. My last entry to the blog on March, 23rd had some inappropriate language, and a harsh tone. It was only intended as a comment on the views of indeterminate sentencing. Through the theory part of the class we grouped prison, schools, the asylums, and work places as places of authority. So since we are actually in school I wanted to compare prison to it. I thought that the point reduction of late work had parallels to indeterminist sentencing so I wanted to do a sort of creative write on it. I wasn’t trying to make a critique on the grading policy. It was just comparing the critiques.

As for the harsh tone, I just wanted to write from the perspective of the prisoner, and show the emotional side to his argument. It wasn’t intended to be aimed at Prof. Page although that is literally who I attacked in the blog.

I want to apologize once more for the blog, I thought it would be appreciated for its creativity; I thought it would give some life to the blog discussion and stimulate its use.

My apologies

Sincerely K. Alex Finseth

March 27, 2007

Socio 4105 The Correctional Institution

I have a real big problem with some of our grading criteria for our class which became very evident the day of March 23rd.

To start off I messed up, and I feel bad about it. Unfortunately I didn’t watch the farm by last Thursday, and I didn’t blog. What makes me feel really bad is that I wasn’t able to participate with my group discussion that day. Every one in the class and my group feels that it is important to participate and its part of the rules. I didn’t appreciate that. I felt like I had better things to do than read the readings and watch the movie now I am suffering for it

Now that I haven’t blogged about the farm Long-Chain Joshua tells me I’m going to get docked points. I guess the blog entry is something like 10 points and now I’m going to get docked. He didn’t say how much. He could take off 1 point he could take off 9. I just don’t know. So why would I possibly do the blog if I have no idea. It might not be worth my time if all I get is one point for it. I might just bitch and moan and pray it doesn’t hurt my grade much.
I bet others in the class feel like I should just get the 1 point. They did the work, and I just sat on my ass. I bet they feel like I shouldn’t get the opportunity to make any other points either. That I should just show up to class everyday with out anything in return.
I’m sure some sympathize with me. I’m sure some feel like I should know what’s in store for me. I should know how many points I can get for every day I miss putting up my blog.
Me, I feel like this whole point system is bullshit. How is Joshua going to grade me, what makes his rules so definite. I’m an educated person who can take what I want from the text and lectures and apply it to life, what is his little point system worth to me. Oh Susie you get ten points for doing your blog, so do you Billy. Ale X you don’t get shit. You didn’t turn in your homework.
Why? Did I do something wrong?
No, you didn’t so something right, and I’m going to dock your points because something is wrong with you, and were not going to give you your points until you do something about it.
Well fuck your points

-K. Alex Finseth

March 26, 2007

"The Farm": Good Movie - Bad System

The documentary "The Farm" brings up a few interesting points about the American prison system today. The fact that Angola (the name taken after the slaves that came from Angola back then) was the largest prison in Louisiana and also a former plantation points towards the book we just read about how African-Americans in the South were brought in to a systematic continuation of slavery and how Jim Crow laws were written and carried out to target freedmen. This continuation is evident even today when we know that almost 80 % of the prison population are African-American. Something is terribly wrong with this equation isn't it? The warden driving around in his car reminded me of the boss-man back in the days riding along on his horse to oversee that the crops were good and that the prison was making a profit. I'm sure that the warden was a good guy (just look at all the reformatory programs they had for the "willing to reform" prisoners). But the similarities between the now and then was uncanning when watching the almost all black prison population walking down to the fields with their hatchets and shovels.

There were a few things that struck me the most about this documentary. First, it was how the system was holding poor people down. It's beyond me that it would cost almost $ 3000 to get court transcripts to be able to bring forward your case in court. Second, why does convicts on death row have to endure the agony of being locked up for 23 hours a day (in the movie, the guy had been there for 12 years too, and I don't think the punishment fit the crime either. Or is it possible to justify that we authorize the government to kill people who have killed to tell the public that they shouldn't kill people. Where's the logic in that?!). Third, the trial execution we were able to witness was a pitiful portrayal of how badly trained government officials are in killing people. The fumbling with the straps and number of people that was needed to carry out the procedure was kind of a wake up call (too many chefs if you ask me). Also, the convict on death row told us that he wasn't afraid of dying, he was afraid of suffocating because he would be sedated into this lobotomized state being unable to speak or to show the agony of how his brain would be able to register being suffocated. Come on people! Wouldn't it be better to do it the old fashion way? (and no, I do not mean lynching). A firing squad seems more humane to me. It seems like this way of killing people is constructed in a way so that the government more easily can justify what they're doing by making it seem more like they're putting people to sleep (like a sick dog at the vets office) rather than finishing off people in a cruel and unusual way (ring any bells?). I'm sorry for the digression here, but this old testament like fashion of justifying government killings (eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth etc) is something I just can't and won't understand. Ever.

I think this movie showed us that the Marxian way of thinking isn't dead just yet. I know that talking about classes of people seems kind of archaic and out of date, but it still is something that seems obvious to me. Aren't most of the people in this movie poor, of a minority and people with long term sentences? With almost 2 million people in the prison system isn't it possible to speak of an entire underclass of people? We know that recidivism rates are not exactly what we would call uplifting. Is it a public health issue, or is it just time to be more tough on crime? Well, it seems that the deterrent effect of mandatory minimums, three strikes laws (in CA) and the death penalty is close to zero. We know that judges sometimes hate themselves for giving 25 years to life just because they're bound by law to do so. Furthermore, the disenfranshisement of prisoners (meaning that most prisoners can't vote in elections, even after they're done serving time) also provide evidence of an underclass of people. Isn't the the whole idea of the American democracy that everyone should be have their say in elections and in how society ought to be? (by yhe way, the 2000 presidential election between Gore and Bush could have been settled much earlier had Florida prisoners been able to vote. There are about eighty thousand prisoners that could have voted back then, which would have made Gore the winner of both the popular and the electoral vote). Sorry again for yet another digression, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

"The Farm" cannot be said to be a reflection of society, because most people don't know what goes on there (or people don't to know, do they? Would most people's consciense be able to handle it?). Remember the book we read about the jail system? Who knew that inner city jails would be even worse than we could have imagined? Even worse than all the prison movies I guess a lot of us have seen over the years. I don't think it's up for the government to make the prison/jail-experience to be the biggest deterrent of all, the time you spend there should be deterrent enough. It alone should keep people out of jails and prisons and from making bad decisions. I think that American prison system is constructed in such a way that it continues to keep poor people in a spiral of crime and continued poverty that they can't get out of. Education is really bad in poor school districts, and I don't see how relocating recources on testing students over and over again is going to make it any better (I mean, education is the best way out poverty, and recources are better spent on teaching rather than repeating stuff that you tested on in standardized tests). And who wants to hire an ex-con except those who hire people to flip burgers for the rest of their lives or those who need people at the check out counter at your local supermarket? To me prison seems like a school of crime where survivial of the fittest is the only mantra for new prisoners. People need to be eduated. People need to wake up.

Jorn Jakobsen 3/26/2007

PS: If you want to see a good prison movie, rent "Brubaker" with Robert Redford. It will get you thinking.

March 22, 2007

The farm theory

There are a few things that I could say to relate this movie to sociological theory. First, the only difference between the angola prison and slavery, is the fact that now they can legally treat blacks as slaves. The prisoners are disproportionately black, have no civil rights and bear the burden of slavery in all but name.What is reaaly shocking is that 85% of the prisoners that come to Angola will die there, and considering that the sentences for blacks are extremely discretionary (100 years for 2 counts of murder) it is no wonder that most die there.

Marxist theory is very relevant to this movie ,the economic exploitation and class systems can easily be seen. The prisoners were expected to work all day in the fields for 4 cents a day, it is easy to see who benefits from this!!
As the women said in the movie "things are different if you have money" because then you can afford a good lawyer.However, as we can see from the movie things are also different if you are white.I don't think that I would be exaggerating to assume that in this prison and some parts of the South there are two class systems, the white superioir race and the inferior black race. The South really never lost the war, now they have just become more innovative in their methods to achieve white supremacy and black oppression. The parole board in the movie really exemplifies this point. Would a white man be treated this way?Would a white man be given a sentence of 100 years?The power of knowledge can always get things done in one way or another.

Durkheim is also relevant to this story because in the South the shared sentiments are black inferiority. This is an expression of their collective conscience. The white poor man may not have money, but at least he aint black. Diversion was also used by the Southern elites to persuade poor people that their true enemies were black folks, not us. If prison does indeed reflect our society, then we have learned nothing from our historical mistakes. Furthermore, if crime deserves punishment then when do we get ours, because the way that we as a nation have been treating blacks it could well be made a crime. Maybe we should consider the social responsobility that we have and maybe walk a mile in their shoes!!


I don’t know – the film didn’t surprise me much as it was easily anticipated; the concentration on the poor conditions and lives that convicted felons lead while incarcerated.

I can appreciate the goal of trying to identify with everyone using the examples they chose (the killer who murdered his wife, the man awaiting lethal injection, the rapist awaiting appeal, and the old guy who became in religious while inside). But these are still only a handful of isolated predicaments in an otherwise notorious prison for hardened criminals and Louisiana’s judicial systems seemingly cavalier sentencing.

And sorry if you don’t like Durkheim, but the fact remains that these are still people that a majority of Americans do not want waltzing the streets freely or as neighbors to their families. Correctional officers allow these vicious acts to continue and we as a society depend on terrible conditions as punishment for these inhumane acts that people do commit to give us a sense of retribution.

-Jason Savage

The Farm review

I feel that the movie, The Farm, was very eye opening. The intense detailed accounts of the lives of the six inmates depicted in this movie can not be forgotten. This movie truely shows what it is like to be an inmate in a maximum security prison. I have to be honest and admit that a lot of the things that I witnessed while watching the film were not surprising because I regularly watch documentaries on life in prisons, i found one particular thing very interesting and shocking. I have noticed that many people have commented on the same thing. The case of Vincent Simmons, the man sentenced to like 100 years in prison for the rape of two individuals is extraordinarly shocking. I am not one to judge on whether or not this individual is actually guilty of the crimes he was charged with or not because i have not seen all of the evidence. However, what is shocking to me is the simple fact that the parole board did not even take the time to consider whether this man was actually guilty or not. It took them less than a minute, or some very short period of time. to decide that he was guilty and would not be eligible for parole at that time. The fact that these members of our justice system went into that hearing with preconcevied notions about something is highly disturbing. It is evident that they had preconceived notions by the parole board member reassuring the supposed female victim. That goes against everything we stand for in our country. This man, although convicted of the crimes, brought forth evidence stating that he could prove his innocence, and instead of him having he right to get it reviewed and have his case reconsidered, they dismissed him as being just another guilty inmate making up dumb reasons to try and lessen his sentence. This documentary, just by this example alone, suggests major implications in the changing/re-working of our criminal justice system, especially in the form of parole and prison systems. If the parole members' decisions were based off of biased and prejudice, any individual in that prison that was not of the proper appearance, according to them, would not have a chance in hell to obtain freedom, even if they were innocent. I am not saying that I am on the side of the prisoners, because I do feel that people who commit crimes should be punished for them, if not able to be rehabilitated. One case of an individual who is innocent being wrongly put into prison is enough to suggest a change in the system. It is evident by this movie that it has serious faults. I just feel that the movie the Farm suggested severe implications of change that need to take place in our society, especially our criminal justice system, which is supposedly suppose to be fair, everybody provided equal protection and rights under the law.

The Farm

After watching the movie, "the farm", I thought it showed the very real and sad life of young people in prison. Like inmate Crawford, who is in his early 20's and now serving life for his crime. The sad part is that his life is basely over. What I meant by this is that he will no longer be able to live a normal life like other adults.

I thought that two ederly inmates (Tannerhill & Whiterspoon) are very interesting. They seems to understand their role in prison that they needed to think differently to surive in that environment. I thought that the two of them are very good model for the new inmates because of their knowledge.

Inmate Simmons seems to me like he didn't believe that he had raped a young girl. I think that he knew that he had committed the crime but Iis trying to use excuses so that he could be released from the farm.

Inmate "Bone" has lots of positive words for other inmates as he knew that he was going to die soon. Inmate Bone seems to understand that what he did was wrong by killing his wife. Inmate Bone seems to have peace with himself and was ready to die there at the farm.

Inmate Brown's life at the farm was very interesting. Inmate Brown spent 23 hrs in a cell block and 1 hour outside of the cell block to do other things. I also thought that it was very interesting before inmate Brown was put to death that he could eat anything he wanted for the last meal.

It made a lot of sense to me after finishing the movie why 80% plus of inmates entered into the farm will die there. Most of the inmates were serving life terms at the farm .

"The Farm"

After watching this movie and taking a peek at what all the rest of you guys said i had some of the same issues as you. To be honest i thought that i had a great idea on what went on in prison life but i did not. I found the parole board completely out of line, how inconsiderate the people must be to not even take a look at the new facts in the case. And on the other hand make the comment stating we knew he was guilty anyways before this information was presented. Parole boards should be punished for acts like this and not only that punishment should be based on nations standars as well.

Mitch Kuhlman

The Farm

I watched The Farm a couple years ago in my Intro to the Criminal Justice System class. Seeing it again brought back the same feelings and thoughts I had in the past. What I took from the film was an optimistic view of the ways prisoners can make the best out of their experience at Angola. Bishop Eugene Tannehill is an inspiring example of a way in which a prisnoer can turn his life around in prison. He said it best when he stated, " life at Angola turns into a puzzle you have to peice back together". I found it disturbing how the parole board reviewing Vincent Simmons case had their minds made up about his guilt before even letting him speak before them. I remember being convinced that the newly recovered evidence would at least make the parole board take a step back and review his case further. Overall I thought the film was very interesting. From what I have seen about prison-life documentaries, and seeing as Angola has the reputation of being the most dangerous and bloodiest prison in America, I expected to see more images of violence throughout the film. I guess I appreciated the fact that Angola wasn't portrayed in this way. It was refreshing to watch a prison film with "despair down and hope up" (Burl Cain-head warden).

March 21, 2007

Life In Angola is NOT Worse Than Slavery

This movie did not shock me nor did it upset in me in any profound way. My first reaction upon finishing my viewing of the film was to question the film’s purpose. Was it to evoke feelings of pity for these men, to show the great injustices of our penal institutions, or just to show a glimpse into the life of inmates at Angola prison? If the purpose was to evoke feelings of sympathy or pity for these men they failed miserably. If at any point during the movie I began to feel sorry for the men all I had to do was to think of their victims and the families of their victims. Not once in the film did I see a man who seemed to be truly remorseful. Not once did I see a man shed a tear or even sound like they felt badly about their crimes. The man on his deathbed said he killed his wife because they “uh, had some problems.? But not to worry, God will save him… The pain does not leave the victims of their crimes so easily; why should it leave them?

While my previous statements may make me seem unsympathetic to the injustices present in our penal institution that is not my intention. I acknowledge the fact that there are problems with our penal institutions as evidenced by the review board rejecting Vincent’s request for a retrial in light of new evidence. It was clear that the decision had been made even before the victim’s and Vincent’s statements were given. To the review board, Vincent was a guilty man sentenced to 100 years who would serve as many of those as his life span would allow—no questions asked. At least no questions they really cared about the answers to… Also disturbing was the fact that the rape victim was allowed to "pick" a perpetrator from a group of men where only one (Vincent) was in handcuffs. The injustice in that situation goes without saying.

All in all, I believe that this film did a poor job of making any kind of strong point. From what I saw in this film I feel comfortable saying that “life in Angola prison? was not “worse than slavery.?

The Farm

After viewing The Farm, it seems evident that Angola Prison was not much more sophisticated and just than the Parchman facility was. First off, what seems incredibly sad to me is that Angola Prison does not seek to rehabilitate people in any way. The inmates examined made it abundantly clear that they had turned their lives around, and decided to do good in their lives only because it was their only way to overcome the utter hopelessness they encountered in Angola. Bones repeated over and over again that many people believe life is over when they enter prison, but it isn't. He had to make himself believe this in order to make peace with himself, and move past the terrible things he did in his younger years. There seems to be no outside encouragement from prison facilitators, rehabilittion and correction seems only to be achieved when an inmate realizes that if he does not make an attempt to move on, prison will kill him inside and out. I also do not feel correction is of any obligation to this facility because of what happened to the inmate with the ultimate example of good behavior. This particular inmate led groups and organizations, helped newer fellow and lost inmates, and educated himself to the utmost degree. It was clear that this man had reconciled with his past, had remorse for his actions, and could function as a productive member of society. However, he was denied a parole hearing, and would continue to spend time behind bars. To me, this completely negates any correction that has been completed for an inmate. When one knows they're ready to enter society, has expressed it, and is denied for no apparent reason, future years in prison with those who cannot rehabilitate themselves will simple wear away all the work that has been done. The film also reminded me of the Parchman plantation when the captions at the end of the film stated how inmates pardon papers are waiting to be signed by a governor who has not to term signed any pardons. Worse Than Slavery also had examples where innocent men sat in jail wasting away because they were forgotten, and had been waiting years for a pardon that may never come. The grave injustice done to the inmate with the new evidence in his case, and hoping to obtain a parole hearing also showed similarities to the attitudes carried by the officials at Parchman. The officials jsut kept repeating, ofcourse he did it, oh ofcourse he did it. It was as if they knew he was a hardened criminal and rapist because he was black, and white women had told them that this man was a terrible man. In Parchman, many blacks were imprisoned on the word of whites, and deprived their freedom because their word was meant nothing over the word of any white individual.

The Farm

After watching "The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison" I was unsure what the particular agenda of the documentary was or if they were simply trying to show what life was like in Angola. When the documentary ended, only two major moments stuck with me. The first is the parole board hearing for the rape case. The board did not appear to do justice for the prisoner, they all seemed to agree before they heard anything at all that he was guilty and would not receieve parole no matter what. But perhaps the creators of the documentary left out particular bits to give that impression in order to make the audience sympathetic to the prisoners. This was the general feeling I had immediately after watching the movie which leads me to believe that, that was the aim of the directors. On the otherhand, I recalled a scene with the prisoner dying of cancer. He killed his wife for mistreating their child. There are numerous other acceptable solutions that could have settled his dispute. Up to the day he died he did not regret committing murder and thought that his actions were appropriate. He deserved a life sentence if not worse, which prevented me from sympathizing with his position. Although, even in this interview the directors seemed to want you to feel sorry for him, they may have meant it to demonstrate objectivity. Though the film represented life in Angola prison, I'm not sure it did so fairly. -Jenna Hernke

The Farm, Thoughts.

First off, I'd like to question the purpose of this movie. I really didn't see an underlying message. Was I supposed to feel bad for the inmates? Because for all except Vincent, I really had no sympathy for the inmates. They had all done something horrible and they were being punished. So for me, there really wasn't a message other than the fact that it was an unfair system to the people who were actually innocent.

Theriot still, right before he died, smirked about killing his wife because they "had some problems" as he put it. There was no remorse in him. Maybe it was because he was dying soon, but still -- it was interesting to see that he didn't quite repent all the way. And even though people like George Ashanti who seemed to be fully re-vamped members of society who wanted to do only good, I'm not sure to what extent I felt sorry for him. I guess if the point of prison is to rehabilitate people, then he was rehabilitated and should be released. But at this point in the US, prison is a place to punish, and he was getting his full punishment.

So the only person I felt sorry for, and felt that he was treated unfairly, was Vincent. Vincent had evidence that he didn't commit the crime -- he definitely deserved a rehearing with the new evidence that he had. I think the board had definitely made up it's mind not to let him have a rehearing before they met with him, which was stupid, because yes those women were upset about being raped, but someone else raped him. Their anger was directed at the wrong person. I also didn't see the black member of the board say ANYTHING the entire time. It seemed like it was fat, white, prejudice men making all the decisions. In fact, throughout the movie, all the boards that I saw (including the rehearing board, pardon board, and members who were in charge of deathrow) were fat and white. That says a lot about the types of decisions being made towards a prison community of 77% black members.

The Farm

My first reaction to the film was similar to my reaction to "Worse Than Slavery."...I cannot believe this happened and still does happen in our country. That people cannot see the similarities between slavery and these penal institutions surprises me. First of all, the farm is named after Angola, Africa where many people were taken from the homes, brought here and forced into slavery. In fact, the prison farm had previously been a plantation. Second, the majority of inmates at Angola are African-American. This is not a surprising fact, though, because most prison populations are primarily made up of black inmates. Furthermore, the inmates are forced to do hard physical labor and are compensated with only pennies a day. Although slaves were paid nothing for their work, what Angola pays them is next to nothing compared to what a free laborer might make for the same duties. Not only are the similarities between this institution and slavery striking, but the maltreatment suffered by the inmates is also surprising. The scene that sticks out most in my mind is the one where the inmate goes before the parole board requesting they pay attention to some possible new evidence. The inmate, who was accused of rape, suggested that two of the girls were virgins making his rape impossible. However, instead of reviewing the documents he provided to the parole board, they simply deny his parole in literally minutes. This is a severe injustice and I fully believe it is better to let a guilty man be free than to imprison one who is innocent. Such mistakes make a mockery of our criminal justice system and severely injure any credibility the system has.

The Farm

I found the movie “The Farm? very interesting. I think that it gave an accurate account of what prison is probably like. One of the parts of the movie that I found most interesting was the legal side of incarceration, by which I mean the appeals process and the parole boards. As I was watching one of the cases that was presented to the parole board, It seamed to me that the prisoner had a pretty good case, and yet the board denied him his parole. I found it interesting that none of the men on the board said anything about the case other then “I know he is guilty.? They did not even seem to deliberate very long on the subject. In this case I did not feel that this individual got a fare trail originally. It seemed that some of the prisoners were not represented well or had to represent themselves, which seems to be a hindrance to their cases. I’m not saying that everyone in prison is innocent and should get free legal services, but it did seem that some cases could warrant some kind of help.

March 20, 2007


Few can really say they know the point of view of a prisoner. Fortunately, for us who are curious about prisons, but don’t actually want to become inmates, there are documentaries like The Farm. Angola, the Louisiana State Prison, is a hold-over from the chain-gain-type prisons of post-antebellum south. Although reformed in 1972, Angola is still no place you would want to be sent to. Run like a plantation, prisoners are worked to the bone just so that “they're tired at night,? meaning, that they don’t attempt escape when it’s dark out. Following six convicts over the course of a year, the film features poignant interviews and a peek at the inside of a maximum security prison. We get to see several interesting characters from prisoners, to guards, to Burl Cain the warden himself. We see an actual parole board hearing as well as a hearing before a board of pardons. This is a film that should be mandatory viewing for all highschoolers and definitely for ‘kids gone bad.’ Scared Straight should absolutely add this one to their queue.
-Nathan Sokolowski

March 18, 2007

The Farm Review

I was able to see this video 3 years ago in 3101 but with the knowledge I have gained since then in classes, trips, and hands-on experience, I viewed it with completely new eyes and gained a new perspective that I didn't have before. Initially I was shocked at the long sentences the guys were serving but even more so was the remarkable change and attitude they had despite the circumstances. Obviously not all prisoners are going to see being behind bars as ample ground to change, but the men that were interviewed displayed remarkable growth in their individual lives. I struggled with the "toughness" of the parole board and yet perhaps in society we should be greatful for such strict guidlines...? I believe people should be given a second chance at life but how do you know when the change is real or if it is just a facade? We don't want to make those mistakes as citizens...but I think the idea of indeterminate sentencing would play a huge role in these instances. But I suppose it is a difficult call especially in that we only witnessed parts of the stories as shared in The Farm. Those may be exceptions to the norm, but I would hope that prison does play some part in personal reform...

March 17, 2007

The Farm

I thought the Farm was a good movie, it made me sad for the people in prison and also reminded me how much i'd rather not be sent to one. i finished the book Worse than Slavery a couple days ago and Josh was right, they do compliment each other well. a couple of the things i noticed while watching the movie are, one the walter library is one intricately designed building but more so the inmates of this prison are given every right to fight their imprisonment and their sentence. they could become lawyers and it seemed that they had all the tools needed to better educate themselves and better themselves. it was nice to see that many of the prisoners were trying to make a positive life for themselves and others while doing their time in this prison. i didnt however life that when and i dont remember his name but he went up with new evidence of his innocents to a parole hearing and the parole board just seemingly dismissed him. im sure there's more that goes on behind the scenes and off camera but it didnt seem like they gave him a fair chance at representing himself. i was disappointed. I was impressed though and also glad to see that religion and faith can be a strong part of the prisoners life. I can only imagine that a person would go crazy in a place like that if they didnt have so many activities and programs to help stimulate the prisoner and i personally dont believe that if a person truly reforms that they should be stuck in prison. however that does bring up the question of how do you honestly judge if a person is reformed or not. i dont remember if its the governor or who but i they had the power to pardon the prisoners and in my opinion some of the prisoners seemed worthy in my eyes of a pardon but again i dont know all the details about them or their crimes. the guy who denied the fact that he was going to be exicuted was a strange sight to see and his last words being "wow" i thought that was slightly demoralizing to think that a prisoner cant come to terms with his own upcoming death. overall i thought this was a good movie and it does a great job at showing what the life of an inmate is like and how it has changed since the Worse than Slavery times. i guess its changed dramatically in the past fifty to hundred years. which is good.

March 13, 2007

The Punishment Needs To Fit The Crime

Watching the farm was very interesting to me. I do agree with the fact and am glad that these prisoners received the punishments that were given. I wasn't too surprised by all of the sympathy that some students have shown in their blog entires. The University of Minnesota is a very liberal school. I am 25 years old and have seen a lot in my time, especially having been to war in Iraq. When watching the film, I kept thinking to myself, " How would I feel if a loved one were killed or brutally raped?" I would be torn apart for life. How about anyone reading this? How would you feel if your boyfirend, girlfriend, husband, wife, brother, sister, mom, or dad, were brutally raped and killed. Wouldn't you want to see the criminal pay, or would you want to see them out on the streets in 5-10 years? And the criminals that took another's life, that is unforgivable. I am a Catholic myself, but there are just some things that cannot be forgiven. Let God do that. We are all going to be judged. If life imprisonment and capital punishment is the way our society works, well good. As you can tell if you're reading this, I am very consevative and have no sympathy whatsoever for people that commit horrid crimes. So you grew up in a bad part of the neighborhood. I didn't have the greatest childhood, but that is no excuse for killing another human being. Every once in awhile, I almost felt bad for the prisoners, especially for Josh Brown who was executed, but then I remembered that he brutally stabbed an innocent man to death while his companion watched. Let Josh Brown die. People that commit horrific crimes like that don't belong in our society. I actually feel that society is too lenient on criminals. There is no excuse for it. None. And for anyone that feels otherwise, then get to the root of the problem which stems from an individual's childhood. Focus on that first, how someone is raised, then focus on changing the laws. If this seems upsetting to anyone, I am just writing what comes to mind. One thing I am glad for is that many people found religion. Look at Bishop. He became an ordained minister. Maybe the idea of the penitentiary and reflection works. It seems as though the prisoners made their piece with God. Now where would they be if they hadn't gone to prison? Possibly still committing crimes?

March 12, 2007

Durkheim standpoint & emotion

Overall, I thought this movie gave a very intimate and detailed account of life in Angola prison. Several things struck me as I watched.
I thought the fact that Angola Prison was once a slave plantation was fairly disturbing. As I watched I continued to see aspects of the Angola prison system that mirrored its pre civil war set up. As a student mentioned before, the guards on horses, watching over the prisoners (the majority black) working in the fields, makes me realize that some things have not progressed as much as we would like. It was interesting to learn that not only was Angola a slave plantation, but it is named after the African slaves from Angola Africa who were brought over to work. To me It seemed odd and perhaps a little embarassing that the largest maximum security prison in America can be such a huge example of how penal institutions resemble the institution of slavery.
I also saw examples of Durkheimian view points in this film. Page stated when discussing Durkheim's view on punishment that "how we punish is how we are as a society" (1/25/07). I felt with this view point in mind that the situation in Angola prison reflects our society as an unforgiving society. God would forgive, but not anyone else. This unforgiving, and what I took to be emtionally charged attitudes were especially apparent in the hearings and parole board room scenes. I agree that in the case of Vincent Simmons, the parole board members had already made their decision to deny his parole before hearing Simmons' statements. I thought it was interesting that the one parole board member brought up his granddaughters when sympathizing with the Simmon's victim, saying he wouldn't know what to do if anything like this had happened to them. It would be interesting to find out more about the selection of these parole board members, because to me it seemed very unfair and biased. I feel like the board members should not get caught up in the crime of the prisoner, because that allows to many personal opinions into the decisions regarding parole grants.

Johanna Zabawa

March 11, 2007

The Farm

After watching the film, it makes me view prisoners in a new way. I understand they are guilty, and most claim they are sorry/regret what they did. I did question the parole board review in which they judged the prisoner without even considering the new facts. Now we dont have all the information that he had, but by the way they reacted it appeared it was somewhat believable. I do think it unfair that they allowed the victim to testify prior to the hearing since it appears to have an obvious effect on the outcome. This takes away from what the prisoner has worked on to accomplish the goal of being released.
I was also suprised at the severity of the sentences that were handed out for the crimes that were committed. I think there needs to be a review of the sentencing guideline used, and possibly a "National Standard" to be developed.

Just my thoughts on this.
Jon Doll

The Farm: Victim Impact Statements

I think it is interesting to see how victim impact statements affect these inmate's abilities to get parole or a pardon in this movie. John Brown was an interesting case seeing as he admits to what he did. However, at the hearing for whether or not his sentence would be commuted, it would have been hard to believe that the board would agree to it after the statement made by the victims' family. This was especially true in the case of Vincent Simmons. He had some pretty convincing evidence that at least something wasn't right but the board wasn't hearing any of it. When the victims were in the room they were very sympathetic and I'm pretty sure that they had decided to deny him parole before he ever walked into the room.

March 8, 2007

Comment on "Discovery of the Asylum

I definitely agree with Ellen's closing question about just how safe society is by placing new prisoners in with hardened offendors who have already learned how to survive in prison. One thing I can take from my intro to the American Criminal Justice class is the idea behind the Labeling Theory. If society labels someone "a hardened criminal" at a very young age, they are going to mould their lifestyle around that idea, creating them into the hardened criminal that society claimed they were. I would have to say that although the ultimate goal is to reform prisoners, the influence to do bad is overwhelming and by throwing these criminals back into society with maybe a couple hundred bucks if their lucky, will only influence them to use their newly developed criminal skills to get themselves back on their feet. Right now, the history of the penitientiary shows Durkheim's reasoning behind punishment: separating "us" from "them" and without funding, no true rehabilitation can occur.

The Farm Review

I found it very interesting to relate this documentary with our book for this week. Worse than slavery and "The Farm" had striking similarities. While reading Worse than slavery, I kept thinking "How could people stand around and let this type of punishment insue day after day?" The idea behind Angola State Prison shows nearly the same concept: hard work and a lot of profit with very little costs. I was amazed to hear them say that starting pay for field duty, which is harder work than most of us have ever done, was only four cents an hour, with the best paying prison jobs paying a whopping Twenty cents an hour. However, that was not the most surprising thing I found while watching this video.
I believe that Bishop best described the context behind Angola penitentiary when he said that prison will:
1) Bring you to a crossroad or a turning point;
2) It will harden you;
3) It will kill you.
That third statment is true, seeing as 85% of the people sentenced to Angola will die there.

The last thing I found interesting about this film was just how much faith the prisoners had. I guess being in a place like that, you have to have faith. God was somehow brought up by all six prisoners. I thought it was interesting how Bones admitted to killing his wife, and just how much he embraced God. He was ready to die, and he showed no fear of that day.

Overall, I found it interesting to relate The Farm's modern actions to Worse than Slavery and just how current this topic is in today's society.

March 7, 2007

The Farm

One of the things that stuck out the most to me during the video was the discussion of remaining hopeful throughout imprisonment. I found it interesting that while on one hand the warden mentions that about 85% of the men imprisoned there will die there but on the other hand reiterates the importance that all prisoners remain hopeful and don't give up. This struck me as contradictory. If right off the bat the fact is that 8 or 9 out of 10 will die there, why is it important that the prisoners remain hopeful? Furthermore, the narrator noted that "life means life" when you go to Angola prison... in other words parole is a rarity (as evidenced by the numerous denials depicted throughout). I certainly understand that remaining hopeful in a situation where you are serving a long sentence would be important for morale and keeping the suicide rate down, but this just doesn't seem to hold up empirically for the prisoners there. In fact, I don't recall there being even one "success" story in which one of the individuals focused on was granted a pardon or granted parole. All that being said, I was suprised by the apparent resilience of the prisoners there. Despite their fellow inmates getting executed, dying, and being denied parole and the like, I got an overall impression of optimism amongst most.
The other thing I was interested in was the emphasis on religion within the prison. It seemed that Christianity was widely accepted and practiced, and no other religions were mentioned. It would be interesting to compare this to other such institutions. Perhaps Christianity dominates the geographic region and thus it is more prevalent in the prison? Or maybe it is the only religion that they have services and materials (bibles, etc.) for? It would be interesting to take a closer look at this issue.
A final thing that interested me was the lack of violence shown in the prison. While the prison was once labeled the bloodiest and most dangerous, I saw not one incidence of conflict amongst the prisoners. This was particularly interesting to me because of the setup of the prison itself. For example, the lay out of the sleeping quarters being in large rooms with many prisoners looked like a fight waiting to happen. While I certainly got the impression that the violence had decreased from when the prison was in its' newer years, it would be interesting to know why. While there were guards patrolling the prisoner areas with weapons, there didn't seem to be any over the top displays of force and the guards didn't seem to interact and supervise as directly as I would expect in such a large prison.

The book

I have just finished reading the worse than slavery book and I am confused about some things. First, where was the North when all of these cruel punishments were being handed out? Where was the freedmens society? The civil war provided emancipation, but did we think that the South was just gonna go along with it? I know that we had a lot of troops stationed throughout the South, but obviously there were not a lot of troops stationed in Mississippi. Another thing that I really find interesting is the fact that the people where so ungodly sadistic. It reminded me a lot of France and the puritans.Did we really change our form of punishment like Foucault predicted? It appears as though we have not, at least in some parts of America.

March 6, 2007

Star Tribs "Getting Tough on Child Porn"

An article titled "Getting tough on child porn" was in the Star Tribune this past Sunday (still available in the archives on StarTribune.com). The article states that "federal prison sentences for child porn producers more than doubled between 1994 and 2005." One of the reasons that these sentencing guidelines are getting so high is because of the "repeat nature of the offenses," in other words, offenders are being charged with multiple counts as they more than likely do not posess only one pornographic item. One of the cases mentioned in the article was about a first-time offender who ended up getting sentenced 30 years in prison. The article also brought up the resulting disparity of the sentencing in that "people can get much shorter sentences for much more violent crimes."
This is certainly an example of the government making a strong statement about the crime through the severity of the sentences; and rightfully so as there is no argument about how horrible it is and how damaging for those affected. However, let's take a look at it from another perspective. Do you think that the harsher sentencing guidelines are the best solution? Does 30 years in prison properly rehabilitate this sort of offender? If not, what does? Shorter sentences, longer sentences, rehabilitative programs, counseling, etc. ? Does the dangerousness of the criminal and the interest in keeping him/her from the public justify the cost of keeping them imprisoned for 30 years? What do you think?

The Farm

It surprised me that at Angola prison, they still have prisoners doing field duty, just like the prisoners in the Worse Than Slavery book about Parchman. Similar to at Parchman, the field workers were supervised by guards on horseback. The head warden even admitted that Angola was "like a plantation". Even more shocking to me than the field duty was that many of the employees at Angola lived in a city that was within the prison gates.
After viewing this documentary, I am left wondering what is the ultimate goal at Angola prison? What is the ultimate goal of any prison? The head warden at Angola stated that "probably eighty-five percent of the inmates here now will die here". So obviously rehabilitation of criminals is not a main concern. In addition, at the prisoner orientation in the beginning the inmates were blunty told that eventually "everybody was gonna cut [them] loose". If it is acknowledged that prisoners will eventually lose contact with most of the people they know, why isn't the prison system more focused on reintegrating prisoners back into society if and when they do get released?

Farm Review

The Farm

The video was about Angola prison that was once a slave plantation and became a prison after the Civil War. The inmates may learn a trade and learn skills to redevelop their life so they might be paroled one day. The worst jobs on the farm are field duty where the prisoners earn 4 cents an hour. The Warden says the field duty is good for them because they feel useful, they are kept busy, they get out in the sunshine and also help make money to run the prison. From there over a long period of time, the inmates can work their way up to Class A Trustees where
they attend programs out of the prison confines. The prison magazine, The Anglonite, and the radio station is run by inmates. But even with these distractions, the prisoners are still reminded daily of their lack of freedom. One prisoner said, that Angola was a crossroad of turning points that hardens you and will eventually kill you. If there are no burial arrangements, the prisoner could end up at the prison cemetery, Point Lookout.

The present day Angola system could be seen in a Utilitarian perspective in that the punishments are encouraging prisoner reform to recalibrate their lives. The prisoners are kept out of the real world, and this protects the citizens. The punishments, ideally, lead to a reduction in crime. The field work is a cost benefit to the prison itself. The prisoners gain pleasures (TV, visitors, etc.) with good behavior. I found the video interesting and informative.

Holly Sprenger

March 4, 2007

Dateline. "How to catch a Predator"

I read the Dateline entry posted by Jon with interest. This program is one of my favorite TV program. I watch this program with my 13 year old daughter sometimes because I think there is a lot to be learnt from watching it. "How to Catch a predator" has reveal a lot about the inner workings of sex predators and how the lure young girls. For us parents, this program is a tool on how to keep our kids safe.
The crititisms of this program is desingenous and just out of sentiment. How can NBC be critisized for exposing people who are out to hurt young people. In one of the episods, the predators included, a rabbi, church youth worker, US service man, Medical Dr, etc. What does this tell us? This tells me that ordinary people can be capable of terrible things. What puzzles me is how a community can question the intents of this program.
I think exposing these people is the right thing to do.

Discovery of the Asylum

One of the things that caught my attention while reading the Rothman article "Discovery of the Asylum" was that a main goal of the penitentiary was to "separate the offender from all contact with corruption" (83). Prisoners were cut off from all outside (and inside) influences by being kept in solidarity. One must keep in mind that in addition to being cut off from negative influences, they are also cut off from positive influences.
How reasonable is the goal of separating offenders from corruption today? Prisoners are influenced by other prisoners while in jail and prison, which could make them more corrupt. Are prisons meant to rehabilitate offenders or to separate offenders from the rest of society? I think that today the majority of people would say the latter goal is more important. But how safe will society be if offenders reenter society more corrupt than when we excluded them from it in the first place?

March 3, 2007

Worse Than Slavery: Marxist View

I have begun reading "Worse Than Slavery," and find it very interesting about how the slaves, and the freedmen, put up with so much neglect and pain. I am at page 109 right now, and it is interesting to compare the black and white people with how Karl marx viewed society with the bougesoise and proliteriat. I know we haven't studied much about Karl Marx, but I remember some things from Social Theory. According to a Marxist view, the white people were the elitists and the bourgeoise who exploited the lower class which were the freedmen and proliteriats. Marx had thought that if the conditions were so bad, that the proloteriats would revolt and overthrow the government which in this case was run by white people. We know that over the years, the freedmen did rise up to claim equal rights, but why did it take so long? I look back at my experience while I was in Iraq, and compare the circumstances of the slaves and freedmen to the Iraqi's and the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Does anybody have feedback as to why an oppressed people would just do nothing about how they are treated? Can anybody see the comparison to the way Marx viewed society?