Local author Alan Jacobson writes thrillers, including a popular series that follows the exploits of FBI profiler Karen Vail. His most recent book in the series, Inmate 1577, takes place in San Francisco – specifically, Alcatraz. Jacobson did extensive research on prison life in the 1960s, particularly at the Federal Penitentiary at Alcatraz. I sat down with Jacobson to talk about his new book. Audio above; transcript after the jump.
Photographer Ara Oshagan accompanied filmmaker Leslie Neale while making the film “Juvies” about kids in the Los Angeles juvenile justice system and the California Division of Juvenile Justice. He produced a slideshow of stills from the work, after taking some 5,000 photos. A glimpse of the film (narrated by onetime juvenile offender Mark Wahldberg) available here. Interview with the photographer about how he gained access to the kids here.
In this surprisingly thorough series, the BBC’s Louis Theroux spent two weeks at San Quentin State Prison, touring administrative segregation (the “hole”), eating in the prison cafeteria (with members of a gang he calls the “Barbarian Brotherhood,” but which I’m guessing is the Aryan Brotherhood), and getting heckled while walking through a Special Needs Yard. Theroux, a modern day “gonzo” style journalist, is sometimes criticized for both having a somewhat contrived on-air persona and for seeking out the more sensationalistic aspects of American life. But in this series, the two seem to merge into a fairly restrained look at the prison. That said, Theroux jumps right in to issues of prison gangs, being gay behind bars, and seeks out some of the prison’s more notorious inmates. Part 1 is above; parts 2, 3, and 4 are also available online.
A video trailer for the book, By Heart, by Judy Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson about the men in a poetry class at San Quentin State Prison. Jackson is serving a life sentence at San Quentin and Tannenbaum teaches poetry at the prison.
Tannenbaum has met many changed men and wonders what small things might have been enough to change their life paths at an earlier stage. “Why” she asks, “does it take murder and the prospect of life behind bars to wake up so many young men?”
In response to the wildly popular new A&E series, “Beyond Scared Straight,” two administrators at the Department of Justice published an editorial in the Baltimore Sun earlier this week. “Beyond Scared Straight” basically follows a group of kids as they’re taken on elaborate tours of state prisons and are cajoled and intimidated by inmates. The editorial’s authors, Laurie O. Robinson and Jeff Slowikowski, say that there’s nothing productive about exposing kids to harassment. Kids, they say, cannot be scared straight:
Via Stereo Sanctity, this gem of an archival find captures a late 1970s concert in the exercise yard at San Quentin. The band is the legendary San Francisco punk ensemble, Crime (who always performed in police uniforms) and they’re doing a song called “Piss on Your Dog.” The whole scene… well, it’s a little awkward.
A new documentary coming out this spring will look at the many ingredients that contributed to our nation’s current high incarceration rate. (Preview above.) For those interested in learning more about the situation in California, an event tonight at Golden Gate University’s School of Law will feature Don Specter of the Prison Law Office, former San Quentin Warden Jeanne Woodford, and Paul Wright of Prison Legal News talking about life inside California’s prisons–as well as the lawsuit currently underway that would cap the state’s prison population. It’s 5-6:30pm in Room 2203.