Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Among the Pod People: Jail as Panopticon

PODSAwl correspondent Natasha Vargas-Cooper publishes a very human-to-human conversation with Kari Ferrell today, who explains, among other things, what it's like in jail:

As with most of society, I assumed that the only people incarcerated were individuals who R Kelly'd little boys, and those who like freebasing crack cocaine out of human skulls. There have been girls in here for such things as unpaid parking tickets, driving without insurance, jay walking (seriously! And it was her only charge-spent four days in here) and giving a blowjob to her partner (by marriage) at a park. (Hello, who hasn't done that?) Obviously there are those in here for more serious crimes, and that is unsurprising, but jay walking? …. the most unsurprising thing is that it's exactly how I thought it would be: It's the Orwellian nature of jail itself.

Two things: this is the first interesting thing we've read about this person since Doree Shafrir wrote first about the story. The other is: I am long past ready for us all to obsess about a new criminal now.

16 Comments / Post A Comment

garge (#736)

I was just so stunned when there was a ripped-from-the-headlines Hipster Grifter episode of Law & Order!

KarenUhOh (#19)

Prison/jail (right, right, they're different) is dehmanizing in the extreme, and many (most?) incarcerated either needn't be there or aren't deterred, reformed or chastened by the experience.

With that predicate, this woman is one King Hell Doofazoid.

KarenUhOh (#19)

"dehumanizing," pardons.

RE: new criminal to obsess over.

Spider-man impersonator arrested in Hollywood, the photo essay:

mathnet (#27)

"Typical Hollywood," said the LAPD's Lewis.

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

I feel like 'panopticon' is (perhaps ironically) an underused word in the nads.

Flashman (#418)

The Awl is our panopticon.

Flashman (#418)

Would have liked to hear more about that 'special kind of pairing' but I guess we"ll have to wait for that.
I wonder where Jerzy Mitchell has gone? If you could find her, I bet she'd have some stories to tell!

jfruh (#713)

Wait, if she's serving out time on a conviction, why is she in jail rather than prison? Isn't that the whole distinction — jail pre:conviction, prison after?

There is!
But it's more and more common for people with shorter sentences for non violent crimes to be housed in jail. Largely because of overcrowding. In Ferrell's case overcrowding is what it's keeping her in jail and it becomes one of these things at her jail every 6 weeks the jail will cut a bunch of people loose because the jail is maxed out. So she could get out sooner.

I was surprised to learn she was not in prison either! And actually, because jail isn't meant for long term stays I'd assume it's even more uncomfortable than prison (no gym, no caf, no decent library).

The Panopticon WAS a jail/prison so, you know, like, there's that. Or do you mean to make that very distinction?

But mostly, yeah, prison sucks. Those with the power to make it inhumane want it to remain inhumane. It serves their purposes and the rest of us are pretty much denied the ability to work to make it better by the words "rapist coddler" so we get dispirited and turn away.

Do you have the ability? What do you do? Hmmmmm

I feel like in minimum security settings and particularly JAIL (which you are held in before trial!) should turn it down on the dehumanizing factor. When I was in jail i asked for a blanket at some point and was furiously screamed at by a guard and my first thought was like "JEEZ!"

But then it occurred to me that the guard's hostility is also considered part of the punishment, right? That your confinement is only half the punishment the other half is the willful inhumanity that you can say nothing about?

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

This was my thought as well, that prison designers still use (literally) classic techniques is not especially surprising. For those gripped by the phenomenon though, Richard Ross' Architecture of Authority book has a lot of really good examples of modern panoptic design:

That is an awesome link!!

The Holding Cell SFPD, San Mateo, CA v Los Angeles International Airport!

One thing she's wrong about. Most people give blow jobs to STRANGERS in parks.

NinetyNine (#98)

We've made it this far in the thread an no one as mentioned Discipline & Punish. Let me be the first.

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