March 28, 2007

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.

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 22, 2007


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

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.

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 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

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.

March 6, 2007

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