For an average person like me who has little idea about prison life, especially the American prison system and culture, this documentary en d "Surviving Maximum Security" has given me a clear picture what it feels like being there on the prison’s "inner sanctum" (not that I would want to commit a crime just to experience that). Since America’s prison population is so racially and ethnically diverse, naturally these inmates form their own groups or gangs and develop rules and codes within those respective groups. I’m not quite astonished about prison officials tolerating those groups because they think that establishing them would give the inmates a sense of "community" or "brotherhood" and therefore would bring them some sort of order, but I’m sure those officials themselves do not know or are just oblivious to the fact that such racial groups would do more harm to the inmates than good. The officials don’t really give a "hand of steel" to the prisoners. they just let the inmates do their own way-that’s the problem with democracy sometimes, even behind bars. They just seem content to oversee and control the situation within the prison cells (disturbances and the like) but they don’t really make any effort to prevent further violence nor they don’t give any chance to or help the prisoners to rehabilitate themselves, or even just to discipline them consistently (if not utterly harshly) and reasonably. From what I understand on this particular report, particularly about the California State Prison in Sacramento, there seems to be no likelihood of rehabilitation, no chance of giving those prisoners a lease of life anew. instead the inmates not just rot there but also have a sure possibility to commit further and graver crimes throughout their lives inhabiting in those "slammers". And in this regard, I see this as no more different than the in other countries’ prison situations.
But having said this, I find prison conditions in America an interesting one, and I can say that their culture is unique in a way that these racial cliques among inmates is the only one that really exists in the world, as far as I’m concerned. Racial discrimination, even when it’s no longer that prevalent unlike then, still exists, sadly. Now, for instance, just one little misstep for a black prisoner (e.g., entering a white or a Hispanic prisoner’s territory without consent) is enough ground for him for being beaten to death. Or if one "traitor" reveals his group’s secret systems to anyone else (especially those not of his kind, for whatever reasons he only knows), he will be treated contemptuously or even be killed. Those prisoners live in constant fear and trepidation towards other convicts, and I could really imagine how tragic for them to go through this kind of life. And for that I understand and even sympathize with them.
If I were a prisoner, I don’t think I could bear myself to this kind of culture, when it only means I would inevitably be forced to cultivate further violence, crime, and hatred to other inmates. I’d rather submit myself to harsh discipline and integration with the other inmates who aren’t of my race. That way I would be rehabilitated and make me morally upright-well, I’m in a prison already and meant to serve a life sentence, so there’s nothing to lose if I decide to change myself for the better.
I suppose that many of the convicts are men of color because they’ve been generally ill-treated and viewed with discrimination since olden days. For instance, even if an accused black man has actually committed no crime, he will be nevertheless convicted as a criminal and/or sent to prison (especially with no fair trial) just because he is black. And this is one proof that racial prejudice still subsists, sadly, and it’s more so aggravated behind prison bars.
Ling, Lisa. "Explorer: Surviving Maximum Security". The National Geographic Channel: Explorer. 2005. 25 March 25 2005 .