DiscoverRevealThe man inside: Four months as a prison guard

The man inside: Four months as a prison guard

Update: 2017-05-22
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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.


On this episode, Reveal revisits an hour with Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer who takes you inside a private prison on lockdown.


Head over to revealnews.org for more of our reporting.


Follow us on Facebook at fb.com/ThisIsReveal and on Twitter @reveal.


And to see some of what you’re hearing, we’re also on Instagram @revealnews.



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the Center for investigative reporting and our ex this the went to work as a gardener to prison you know what he was getting into we got to gate of this unit and the guard on staff open a gate and said to us welcome to help the Welcome to the dungeon the the same document his time as an employee inside the Corrections when Correctional Center for Louisiana I mean right now I'm afraid it's like getting high it's pretty unlikely the list but he did pull it off any brings us an unfiltered look at life inside the American Pie peoples this is our lesson before we get going on Today show to tell you about a new podcast from our friends at Minnesota Public Radio it's called seventy four seconds and it focuses on a story we looked at a few weeks ago in a show about police shootings the case for man to steal the guy was shot by police officers doing traffic stop outside of Saint Paul Minnesota Gopher m broadcast his dying moments on Facebook Live video has been viewed millions of times now that officer is going to the Minnesota Public Radio takes a deep dive into this case asking what happened that night what happens when a police officer goes on trial again the podcast is called seventy four seconds that along the whole traffic stop took from flashing lights final gunshot take a second to subscribe right now wherever you get your podcast ok now onto this week's show from the Center for investigative reporting in PR X This is reveal ballots in August of two thousand sixteen President Obama's Department of Justice said they were pulling the plug on some private prison contracts now private prisons are big business in America raking in billions of dollars each year with the Justice Department's announcement Corrections Corporation of America and other big players in the industry saw their stock value plummet enter President Donald Trump in just a few months his Justice Department reversed course on private prisons and alleges back in the black with their stock values soaring Corrections Corporation of America changes name to core civic and continues to run private prisons around the country and that's not changing anytime soon today we're going inside one of those prisons by revisiting a story we originally aired last year the foggy morning in November two thousand for the same Bauer y re thirty something with a goatee and glasses weeks up in his cramped apartment roll is nervous and anxious today is the day he's been preparing for weeks about the star's new job as a guard at a private prison Correctional Center is in the middle of the Saatchi National Forest basically a forest of Pines sort of cross hatched with your roads and you drive through this forest and the force clears and you see what kind of looks like a factory know a very utilitarian tech building some guard towers barbed wire the tough prison guards like say don't care what the it's not long before he starts getting death threats concert reading same to us if you let us out here put the the news is something she is pretty familiar with his reporter for Mother Jones magazine and spent four months working it when Correctional Center to find out what life inside a private prison is really like the prisoners generally are very access to and private prisons in particular are even more secretive and that includes when it's run by Corrections Corporation of America or CCA a private company that team turns away journalists and refuses to release records the government run prisons would be required to share the I decided that you know to have a completely unfiltered look you know where I'm not getting all the information to prison spokes person or company spokesperson or a prisoner they might have a reason to lie or to bend the truth of the chain buys a pen that doubles as an audio recorder and a watch that takes videos yes as a notepad to jot down his observations chain documents everything he can most nights after shift goes back to his apartment sets of scam on a tripod talks about his day The The Prez and it's also cool on top crazy to feel like a traitor kind of know if they find out they're going to be the the the the two recordings interviews with chain other guards inmates were going to take you inside when corrections are not a story for giving us the the US locks up more people than any other country on earth we have about five percent of the world's population more than twenty percent of its prison population now to deal with overcrowding us turn to private prisons those private companies make big money CCA the company that runs a prison wishing its job takes in one point nine billion dollars a year that's billion with a B stock is traded on Wall Street so what does that mean for inmates and guards when a for profit company is running things that's what we're going to find out with Shane and we begin the day he applied for the job basically I went on the website of the Corrections Corporation of America and filled out an application sent it off dance that was that think his real application and the foundation for national progress as is current employer now that's the publisher of Mother Jones and they did do criminal background check as part of the process but I'm guessing they didn't use Google if they had googled him they were found at Hussein is an author who covert a book about the two years he spent in Iranian prison and a reporter who's covered police militarization the Middle East and prisons so his chances of getting a job with CCA seemed like a stretch to be honest with you I didn't think it was going to happen but a few weeks every click supply chain gets word he's hired he passes his physical and drug tests and get a white polyester button down shirt and sleek gray pants to blend in he picks up a camouflage baseball cap from a thrift store and buys beat up Dodge Ram pickup truck the first time that I mean I was very nervous when I got to the entrance of the prison there was a security check and to turn up the truck get out of the track I had audio content just laying on the seat and I'm a dog came in sniffed the truck and my hers counting this whole time up I thought that was it but the dog smelled the passenger side came around to the driver's side smelled it and they let me go the training begins Jane joins a group of cadets in the concrete block building just outside the prison classroom walls are white and flatly lit with overhead fluorescent lights a red white and blue CCA logos painted on the wall in bold letters above the dry erase board says excellence in corrections we went over things like CPR policies on use of force we know where to hide what to do if we see inmates fighting or violence we were basically told to just tell them to stop and call for backup backup comes from the sort in CCS version of a SWAT unit rolling through when like storm troopers the only ones who carry any kind of weapon in training one of Sheen's instructors the captain of the sorting he told us basically a protocol in that prison is to verbally tell them to stop and that's it back out locked the room and as he said let him cut each other so I was really surprised by that he said was you know you'll make a lot of money the next time you raise it's not going to be for much so it's not worth it you know all the guards have something in common they need a job even one that doesn't pay much private prisons in generally these companies like Corrections Corporation of America their main argument is look we can say the state money we can use cheaper than the state can do it the main way that they save money is in staffing at state run prisons guards were making twelve fifteen hour at this prison they're making nine dollars an hour that's less than nineteen thousand dollars a year there was a lot of single moms working as prison guards and at the Walmart they couldn't get more than thirty nine hours to qualify for benefits and had this job they could in training one of the trainers said if you're breathing you have a driver's license and are willing to work are willing to hire really desperate for employees the as Cheney continues cadets learn basic self defense pro shackles they also get sprayed with tear gas the for the day with us we just had to stand there as this cloud kind of walked into our faces aye thousand throw up I wanted to throw it in I can breathe it was nasty when wind has to guess train because this or team uses a lot of chemical agents to guess another chemical sprays on the way they maintain order for right breaks out here guess fighting or stabbing pepper spray these are the go to non lethal weapons after left when there's a public records requests with the Louisiana Department of Corrections I found that over the first four months of two thousand and fifteen which is when I was there when reported using chemical agents like pepper spray and tear gas seventy nine times that's seven times more frequent and Angola Prison which is the maximum security prison in Louisiana was more than any present by far in the rest of the state Jane and the other cadets also spent time in the prison as part of the training I went in with my group of cadets you know walking is a group and some of the prisoners are kind of eyeing the female guards making comments about you know I'm trying to kind of bee friendly you know say hello also to friendly train did not seem afraid really focusing on because I had the cadets travel up the middle lane from the administration building as prisoners move down the designated sidelines we walked down this narrow kind of walkway fenced in and as we got close to it I could hear from inside the building the cadets about to enter the segregation unit it's like solitary confinement except in most cases to prisoners share one cell eight feet wide eight feet long the door open and it was just his cock inside the doors banging people yelling screaming it was just late felt really chaotic the reason that that they took us there was to show us a suicide watch we got to the gate of this unit and the guard on staff opened the gate and said to us welcome to the hellhole welcome to the Dutch one after four weeks Shane graduates to become a full fledged corrections officer was CEO his first real day on the job to return suicide watch the two cells covered in plexiglass change job is to watch the inmates to take notes every fifteen minutes one of the guys and am watching it for hours is staring at me and masturbating the to stop that only encourages him and you know so it's like we're all stuck in a situation that we really don't want to be and it's miserable the suicide watch is the only place it when one God is watching just two inmates that is expensive the mental health director tells Shane sparse conditions are supposed to be a deterrent so people won't want to be on suicide watch in other words they make it as unpleasant as possible people being on the plexiglass sometimes begging for more food CCA says inmates on suicide watch get just as many calories is everyone else but that's not wishing some prisoners on suicide watch have different meals and the rest of the inmates they get what are called suicide bags which are basically the brown bag lunch that has one Bologna sandwich one peanut butter sandwhich six carrot sticks and six Apple sticks when you add that up the amount of calories come to significantly less than what the USDA recommends for most men the Damien costly is another inmate same guards on suicide watch that day he's a super thin young African American man is in for murder has wrapped up in his suicide think the perfume tear proof garment that doubles as a smock it's the only thing allowed inside a suicide watch cell besides toilet paper no real material matters I just still above the way he say if it moves going to get up on his top bunk about the bad breaks that the the DeMint is frequently in and out of suicide watch some of the other guard sees faking but getting a professional opinion is Liza is just one psychologist and once I catch both part time and a full time social worker for fifteen hundred pts tells me is having a mental health emergencies which a report but it takes about six hours for psychiatrists to show up and talk to and they talk to the bars for a couple minutes is the first day yeah yeah we shocked by the Sherry shocks them it was really kind of an awakening it's like okay I'm really starting as everyday the The Coming Out Day to ya today as I lost it I snapped I had an explosion of anger that I am the stay at the this is revealed from the Center for investigative reporting and people are the uh the the the Center for investigative reporting NPR thinks this is revealed a mallet and what happens when private companies run prisons for the government that's what journalists shamed our Mother Jones magazine one to find out to date we've been hearing about his job as a prison guard when Correctional Center in Louisiana it's run by Corrections Corporation of America or CCA company whose CEO makes three point four a year nearly nineteen times with the head of the Federal Bureau of prisons makes chain on the other hand is bringing home nine books that were low pay long hours same work there for four months the state going to work hard before we pick up story one warned that this episode contains graphic language and violence is not appropriate for all listeners the towing and parking my truck and it's like I'm taking this big breath and holding for twelve hours I walk in go through security I get patted down put my thing for an x ray machine and the gate closes claims behind you Aaron's it just feels like you're stepping into the very dark worlds when is made up of five units that house three hundred and fifty inmates each the one story brick buildings were prisoners sleep and spend most of the days the units of the prisoners live and our cement breath kind of a harsh fluorescent lighting shiny cement floor they smell like a shirt that has been worn for several days by a smoker they're not allowed to smoke inside but that rule is not really in fourth the five units are all named after trees are known for housing different types of inmates Birch holds a lot of disabled prisoners Cyprus is the segregation unit where inmates are held in Locke sales dogwood is way better behaved inmates live and there where ash and Elm units and those units the inmates called them the projects amongst the general population as they were that were some of the kind of harder inmates were and ashes the unit I worked an even those chains journalists he's also a guard and that means acting like one one day the unit manager in ash tells him to search the common areas are looking around I look under water fountain and I see a cellphone their inmate watching us so I know that if I pull this phone out there again I took it so I'm creating problems for myself making my job harder at the same time you know my job is to take the phone so I take the phone that day after took the phone we walked on a tear and count everybody everybody was giving me the meanest look that era is like a dorm EADS unit has a to the big open rooms with beds lining the walls open showers and toilets with a low wall for privacy each tear in the forty four prisoners that lived there are in close behind a large metal gate chain guards all eight years of bashing it with his partner Dave Bacon and sixty two years old beagle doesn't look cut out for guard duty heavy set with glasses that look like which the protective wear because counting the days until assists curated kicks in to supplement his retirement checks from the Coast Guard I found a lot of time with him Q Tell me about Civil War re enactments he would go to the old westerns that he read and he became a teacher of sorts when I got into training I didn't feel ready for the job I didn't feel equipped and they called basically showed me the ropes inmates a bagel gets mad these cells like Yosemite Sam the Ram was the silly chain bagel his aging often friendly and occasionally hot headed partner as the only flaw officers for three hundred and fifty inmates there's a lot of time that I'm just standing at the bars I'm on to the bars presence on the other side were just talking you're just as they are living with these guys for twelve hours a day now the Senate the thing is I'm not one of these like the eighteen year old ran eyes start to realize that the bulk of prisoners in my unit were just trying to do their time out will be a bit of the law sat in the short end of my house that was in the euro came to the corner store is an Afghan American makes thirty seven looks fifty five c a scraggly his uniform tattered his face puffy spinning when for more than ten years behind bars have his life is afraid of retribution from other inmates and staff we aren't using his real name I will have on the job fair for me who I fear I will even take my shoes all the same corner store is eager to do is timely Shane gets along with him many of the other inmates but not with all and there's a set of prisoners that I'm constantly clashing with the Iloilo who was near the it was really startling to me how quickly exchanged so when I start I'm really trying to be kind of friendly and easygoing guards are the Fresno the Fresno AG it didn't take long for me to be dealing with people that in seeking advantage of me and would push me too far for reading people alive you know showing people that I was weak and decadent the team might miss in the the beginning of scenes we could with walks in the ass and it is hit with the smell of food waste one of the dorms brown liquid was oozing out of the shower drain it may still see worms squirming on the floor saving the other CEOs start letting inmates out the dark with vehicle slams the close calls on the cold blue makes all the products chain once again I ran to the uh the the they're two guys that are basically grappling and they're separated for me a call by break the mark the the oath is trying to hold each other off to both have stakes shaking they're trying to prevent the other person from being able to swing up and stab our instructor told us let him cut each other I mean just stand there and tell him stop and call for backup going to be we just shout for them to stop the is a bunch of inmates in the rounds quietly watching it it feels almost mundane to the at one point one of them braces are free in swing south and jabs on the other guy's neck he was not the legacy it is very cut the pieces your load I mean there's really nothing I can do except call my radio and were just standing there WE DON'T HAVE pepper spray would have Billy clubs all we had as a radio even the radios were new I mean six months before I was there the guards even have radios with the fight lasts about four minutes until someone from sort or the Special Operations Response Team shows the the only ones who carry weapons and ammo like plastic but shot let you fight she'll have the he sprays the guys that step each other and that's the the custom ticket amount the and first of two thousand and fifteen cc that's twenty three times more that at Angola is a maximum security so why are there so many and with Shane says they didn't have the staff the costly search for them everyday when I came in for my shift count how many people were there sometimes there'd be twenty four guards there for fifteen hundred inmates the often were staff to keep the prison away was suppose to CCA later he was too low of the totem pole understand the staff policies but the company's contract with Louisiana spells out pretty clearly this supposed to have thirty six guards show up for work at six am everyday one are coming back from chow said the unit and bake all starts yelling code blue outside which means units fighting I run out there and the bunch of inmates are holding one this young white guy the ground crying the the the the mound white guy is this other man spot where what that means in prison is that you know they have a sexual relationship the subservient one other guy is call his I don't know if he was trying to avoid this man or what the reason was but as soon as his old man beat him with a lock in a sock a stake in the infirmary and a little he's back in the year he has two choices He can either go to protective custody which is back in segregation or he can go on a tear where the inmates have threatened him now I win the card still turn a blind eye to over rate that they do accept them or systemic abuse of punks so by going back and here he is assuming that this risk that he might become someone else's punk but to him segregation is so bad that he decides to were inmates would tell me constantly that when that was more violence than other prisons that Ben to win has no control the tone of scary was that score a story in force Friday and stabs it done in surprise at the scene so the prisoners and guards agree about that we can use hey oh and Amy Jennifer Callahan is in her thirties like most guards when she's African American was her job to keep tabs on the entire unit from inside and tag the control room of the key watching feeds of the unit surveillance cameras as the land because I sell me into the If we're happy to be in the past or rather i today was him stay in school announced as the light with this new lady is saying the the first two months I was there I knew of at least twelve stabbings that occurred when I got the data from the Department of Corrections it showed that the CCAA had only reported five stabbings in a ten month period they weren't reporting of the stabbings all of us feel like my luck was running now because all that you can go out stagnant air that is gonna have to do it because it has to be a life change for part
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The man inside: Four months as a prison guard

The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX