“Alabama, Why You Want To Be So Mean?”

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Michael Brandon Samra was executed by lethal injection in Alabama the day after Governor Kay Ivey signed one of the most draconian abortion bills in the 50 states.

Ivey urged “respect for life” after signing the bill.

The irony was fatal for the 41-year-old Samra, who confessed to helping a friend murder his father, his father’s girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s two daughters in a dispute over the friend being allowed to use the father’s vehicle 22 years ago.

The instigator of the crime, Mark Duke, is serving life in prison because he was under 18 at the time.

Montgomery’s Equal Justice Initiative headed by Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy) has reported that Samra, 19 at the time, was developmentally disabled, which would have put him intellectually under the age of 18 as well.

Michael Brandon Samra

According to an EJI article published May 16, Samra had been placed in special education classes for most of his schooling. He eventually dropped out of high school. Neither Samra’s court-appointed counsel nor the prosecution investigated previous reports of his low IQ or follow up on neurological testing that gave evidence of brain damage.

In addition, no move was made for a change of venue from Shelby County, where the murders had occurred and where Samra had already been found guilty by public opinion. He was sentenced to death the same day he was convicted, which is highly unusual.

Shortly after becoming governor two years ago, Ivey signed legislation that shortened the appeals process for death-row inmates in her state, which has the highest per-capita number of prisoners on death row.

In addition, Alabama has one of the highest infant mortality rates and problematic education systems in the country.

Some of the worst human rights abuses during the Jim Crow era took place in Alabama. Considered the Deep South, Alabama was one of the states where recalcitrant enslaved people were sold from mid-Atlantic states. When this happened, families were generally separated, and those sent to Alabama were rarely heard from again.

So it is difficult to see to what respect for life Alabama, or its representatives, has.

Some may argue that a person who murders has no respect for life and therefore that person’s life does not need to be respected.

I will not argue my opinion that capital punishment is immoral, period.  Neither will I argue my opinion that if you say you have respect for life, you must show respect for all life outside of the womb.

You cannot have respect for life if you are not doing all you can to protect the lives of children already existing, of women who have been raped, of victims of incest, of developmentally disabled people, even of outright murderers who have been on death row for 20+ years and are different people from the ones they were at the time of their crimes.

As J.B. Lenoir sang in Alabama Blues, “Alabama, Alabama, why you want to be so mean?”

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The Interior Journey as Resistance

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In his heartbreaking remarks at a press conference the day after a domestic terrorist shot up his synagogue in Poway, CA, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein made one comment that I’ve been pondering since.

As a way of preventing such violence, he remarked that perhaps even a quiet time first thing in the morning in schools for children to reflect and meditate would be helpful.

While this does not need to be a religious matter, Rabbi Goldstein echoes great spiritual leaders such as the Rev. Thomas Merton and Rabindranath Tagore in his suggestion given in a moment of personal and communal grief. In all faiths and in humanist philosophy and other disciplines, interior reflection is considered a path to maturity and to peace.

I remember how gobsmacked I felt when I realized that one of Polonius’s (Hamlet) great lines is almost never quoted fully. Most people have heard “To thine own self be true.” They rarely absorb the rest of the quote, which is the most important part: “This above all: To thine own self be true and then it followest as the night to the day, that thou canst be false to no man.”

Shakespeare’s point was not just being true to oneself for one’s own sake, which might just be selfish; even criminals can be true to their own evil desires. But when one is true to oneself in order to reach some kind of enlightenment, it will naturally occur that one will be true to everyone else.

The interior journey is the best way of being true to oneself. You might also call it searching one’s soul or taking stock. How else to examine where one is in relation to where one wants to be?

How else to get down and dirty in looking at one’s own behavior and learning to be honest enough to admit when one has been wrong and then resolve to correct the behavior that has caused one to go astray?

It’s true that for many, this is a spiritual practice in attaining the closest possible relationship to the Divine. For all people it can be a way to ensure that one is not false to other people, which enhances a notion of being in community with other people rather than separate and exclusive. The fuller a feeling one has of being in community with all creation, the less one will want to do damage to that creation.

Some people suggest what is called a daily examen, in which one meditates on what one enjoyed most about the day and what one disliked most about the day. The answers can be clues to behavior that is good for one’s life (and others!) and behavior that is not. 

The interior journey is not always easy. Any member of a 12-Step group knows how difficult it is to complete the 4th step, an inventory of one’s behavior that may have been harmful to other people.

The interior journey can also be joyful, though, and energizing as one makes breakthroughs and has epiphanies about oneself and one’s strengths as well as one’s weaknesses.

It is too glaringly obvious that the violence and corruption in our country is caused by a wish to be set apart rather than brought together with one’s fellow human beings. I can’t even imagine the president or any other member of his cabinet being self-reflective and considering how his behavior affects others. Neither does it appear to me that white supremacists have ever searched their souls.

Nevertheless, the interior journey is one piece of a solution that could help restore morality to our country if only people are taught at a young enough age of its importance. So thank you, Rabbi Goldstein, for such generosity that, even in your grief, you offer us a way forward.

Thoughts on The Mueller Report

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We’ve all heard a lot about the Mueller Report by now. I don’t claim any expertise other than having watched hours and hours of legal experts talk about it and having read much, though not all, of it. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m a citizen who has been highly distressed, even despairing, about the last 4 years of our country’s life. I offer here my thoughts and opinions about what the report, even redacted, says about the current president.

Volume I specifically deals with whether or not there was Russian interference in our 2016 election and whether there was conspiracy on the part of the Trump campaign to enable interference. The report states uncategorically that there was Russian interference, and in fact it started in 2014 before the current president had announced candidacy for 2016.

I was surprised by how many redactions there were in Volume I, as I’d thought that Roger Stone’s case was the only outstanding one as to whether or not there was coordination with Russian operatives. There must be cases we’re not yet aware of and may never know about.

Russian operatives were sent to the United States in 2014 in order to begin to take the temperature of the country and infiltrate organizations that were disaffected by the Democratic President Obama. This says clearly to me that Russia wanted a Republican President elected, no matter whom, in 2016.

It also suggests to me that the fact that the President at the time was an African-American was seen as a path to sowing discord in the country by playing to White Supremacists and also that the Russian government who approved these special ops are White Supremacists themselves.

Here’s my takeaway from the beginning of Volume I:

  1. Page 9 While saying there was no evidence of a conspiracy on the part of the Trump campaign, Mueller does say that candidate Trump did see benefits in having Russia on his side.
  2. Page 12 Dates of when hacking of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and the DNC coordinates with when it became clear that Trump would be the GOP nominee.
  3. Page 13 If there truly was no conspiracy, then Trump is the luckiest bastard in the world. It beggars belief that someone who already had a reputation for corrupt business practices was relying on ‘luck” rather than certain knowledge of what the Russians were doing.
  4. Page 14 Why would Manafort share polling data with Constantin Kilimnik, which is undisputed, if not to knowingly influence the election?
  5. Page 15 The timing of the Wikileaks dumps of John Podesta’s e-mails and the Billy Bush videotape of Trump bragging about his sexual assaults of women seem fishy at this remove. It has always been assumed that the e-mail dump was to distract from the pussy-grabbing video. However, it’s been more than clear that Trump’s sexual proclivities do not bother his supporters, even the Christian right. At the same time, it was becoming clearer that US intelligence agencies were known to be investigating Trump, and the video may have been released as a distraction to that. What would be more damaging to him before the election?
  6. Page 40 Further to my speculation about motives of racism on the part of the Russians, when the social media campaign started, the operatives invented a “Black Matters” Facebook page in order to confuse people about the actual group Black Lives Matter. They also threatened family members of Black Lives Matters activists (names redacted).

Volume II begins on Page 341 with an analysis of the possibility of obstruction of justice committed by the president. The report over and over again views actions by Trump both public and private as having the “potential” to fall within the rubrics of obstruction of justice.

There follows a long discussion of the definition of obstruction of justice and challenges to it, in which the report appears to conclude that limitations that Trump’s lawyers claimed for the statute are not valid.

Specific to this discussion is whether Congress can legitimately prosecute obstruction of justice charges against the president. The ruling theme is that neither Congress nor the president can do anything that would assume one or the other’s separate duties. The report concludes that Congress would not be infringing on the president’s Article II duties if it prosecuted him for obstruction of justice.

Be it noted that the first duty of a President is “To take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” We know that that has not happened with this administration.

In discussing ways in which Trump publicly and privately tried to coerce Michael Cohen into cooperating with the investigation, and then turned on him and gave an interview to Jeanine Pirro about Cohen’s father-in-law, the report repeatedly uses the term “points to evidence” that the president had criminal intent in silencing Cohen.

The report also finds Trump’s responses to the Special Counsel’s questions inadequate or incomplete. Most are answered by “I have no recollection” or objections that the incidents occurred two years before and important incidents cannot be remembered. There is also a lot of blame put on other people as reason why Trump doesn’t remember something, eg he testifies that the Moscow Tower plan was Michael Cohen’s idea and that he was not very interested in building in Moscow and therefore he doesn’t remember anything about those plans and communications from the Russian state administration about the plans.

Here is part of the Mueller Report’s ending summary:

  1. CONCLUSION

Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President s conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

In sum, contrary to the position taken by the President s counsel, we concluded that, in light of the Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues, we had a valid basis for investigating the conduct at issue in this report. In our view, the application of the obstruction statutes would not impermissibly burden the President’s performance of his Article II function to supervise prosecutorial conduct or to remove inferior law-enforcement officers. And the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person – including the President – accords with the fundamental principle of our government that “[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.”

 Mueller Report footnote footnote: 1091 A possible remedy through impeachment for abuses of power would not substitute for potential criminal liability after a President leaves office. Impeachment would remove a President from office, but would not address the underlying culpability of the conduct or serve the usual purposes of the criminal law. Indeed, the Impeachment Judgment Clause recognizes that criminal law plays an independent role in addressing an officials conduct, distinct from the political remedy of impeachment. See U.S. CONST. ART.

l, § 3, cl. 7. Impeachment is also a drastic and rarely invoked remedy, and Congress is not restricted to relying only on impeachment, rather than making criminal law applicable to a former President, as OLC has recognized. A Sitting President’s Amenability to Indictm ent and Criminal Prosecution, 24 Op. O.L.C.

at 255 (“Recognizing an immunity from prosecution for a sitting President would not preclude such prosecution once the President ‘s term is over or he is otherwise removed from office by resignation or impeachment.“).

My interpretation: “Have at him, Congress. Investigate him fully and bring charges of impeachment, which I cannot do, and then arrest the son-of-a-bitch the second he leaves the White House.”

There are only two legislators so far whose opinions on impeachment I respect. The first is Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose statement was unambiguous. The second is the Honorable Elijah Cummings, who gave more nuanced views to Joy Ann Reid on All In with Chris Hayes Tuesday evening. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCor-a3YPz4insert) I reject those Democratic legislators who say we’ll take care of this at the ballot box. The Russians are still interfering and states are still suppressing votes and we still have an Electoral College. I for one don’t trust the ballot box.

In addition, the president is still obstructing justice in plain sight through tweets and actions. He and advisers and cabinet officials are openly defying the House of Representatives and tromping all over its separate powers. Further, he has contributed not only to the acts of White Supremacists but is responsible for the death of children at the southern border. How much more harm can he do in a year and a half?

A lot. A hell of a lot.

 

 

Grieving Violence Near and Far

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I sat in the traditional Congregational Church in my little New England town early Saturday evening with many others to grieve and ponder the series of tragedies that hit my town and the world last week.

I had come home from a refreshing vacation to learn, first, that one of those who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash was a local woman, Samya  Stomo, who worked for an organization called ThinkWell. She was young, vibrant, and dedicated to her job of bringing global health initiatives to the under-served. She had visited Africa before; this time she was on her way to Uganda.

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The Rev. Erik Karas and the Rev. Jill Graham organized a prayer service where people could communally grieve the tragic deaths of members of the community and those who died in the mosque attacks in New Zealand.

The next morning, the town was again rocked by what is being called a murder-suicide. Five people died in their home, which was set on fire. It is not yet known whether the wife, a lawyer, and three young children were dead before the husband killed himself and set the fire.

On Friday we learned about the white terrorist attack on mosques in New Zealand that killed at least 50 people and injured many more.

It was not just a one-two punch, but a one-two-three punch because all of these tragedies could have been averted.

I don’t believe in coincidence. I had started listening to Richard Rohr’s new book, The Universal Christ, during my long drive to North Carolina and back. Aside from the Christian theology, Rohr’s book emphasizes a concept I have believed in as long as I have been able to believe in anything: that every person on earth is brother and sister to everyone else on earth. Genetics proves it as much as theology. I believe it in both senses, and Rohr, a Catholic priest, seems to as well. He speaks to everyone, people of any faith, people of no faith, WE ARE ALL ONE.

And he sees, as many others do, that not understanding this is key to the actions that terrorize our world. Racism, Islamophobia, domestic violence, corporate violence: These can all be traced to thinking that we are not part of a global community, not one with all of creation, not accountable to each other for decisions we make, for taking our own pain on the world, for thinking that our skin color makes us better than anyone else.

One only had to watch Kirstjen Nielsen, head of the Department of Homeland Security, being grilled by Democrats in Congress on the outrage going on at the border with Mexico. As congresspeople were almost in tears trying to get her to give a yes or no answer about the evil policies in which she is complicit, she stared at them as if she had no clue that the damage being done to  babies, children, and adults because of the color of their skin is damage being done to all of humanity. She gave no clue that she felt any responsibility to give a damn about these “others.”

Ultimately, she gave no clue of any self-knowledge that she has willingly put herself into an existential hell on earth as she has put these asylum-seekers into a physical hell on earth.

I cannot bear to think of anyone as irredeemable. But it is not my place now to worry about the fates of those who commit violence on others. My place now is to grieve for my brothers and sisters around the world (and just this morning we learned of those killed in the Netherlands) and hope to persuade people to think of themselves as my brothers and sisters too.

James Lawson, Pioneer of Nonviolence

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James Lawson’s name is one that is probably not familiar as a civil rights hero among those who haven’t especially studied the movement.

Yet John Lewis says in his memoir, Walking with the Wind, “Little did I know that the man who would truly turn my world around was waiting for me in Nashville. His name was Lawson, Jim Lawson.”

It was from Lawson that Lewis first learned the depth of the philosophy of nonviolent action. Lawson was a field secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR); he traveled around the country giving workshops until he settled at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where. Lewis was a theology student at Fisk University.

lawson2Lawson had grown up in Ohio. As a conscientious objector during the Korean War, he served 14 months in jail. After serving his time, he went to India as a Methodist missionary and became profoundly obsessed with the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

Lewis and his best friend, Bernard Lafayette, attended the workshops that Lawson offered. It was also Lawson who introduced them to the Highlander Folk School, where founder Myles Horton, Septima Clark, Rosa Parks, and others taught both citizenship classes and nonviolence as a means to ending segregation and acquiring the vote.

Buoyed by Lawson’s continued teaching and encouragement, the young Lewis and Lafayette along with James Bevel, Diane Nash and others went to a conference in Atlanta that led to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Lawson was instrumental in the writing of SNCC’s Statement of Purpose in 1960. Yet just two years later, at the April 1962 anniversary  conference, he was not invited. The membership of SNCC was changing to more radical voices who advocated revolution rather than integration and argued for violence in the name of self-defense. Stokely Carmichael, James Forman, and Tom Hayden were among those new voices. While Lewis was elected to the executive committee of SNCC and was also asked by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be on the board of the Southern Baptist Leadership Conference, it wouldn’t be long before he was sidelined from SNCC also because his heart and soul were with Lawson and King.

Though Carmichael directly attacked Lawson, saying that “deliberate self-sacrifice [was] an unnatural philosophy,” he continued to teach nonviolent resistance as an instructor at COFO (the Committee of Federated Organizations) in Oberlin, Ohio, which was training volunteer students, many from the North, for the voting rights drive of Freedom Summer. He also was active in trying to get the Methodist Church to abolish its principle of Central Jurisdiction, which meant that while many African-Americans served as bishops, pastors, and missionaries, there were many segregated Methodist churches.

A year ago April, I watched the CPAN coverage of the day-long gathering in Memphis that marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s murder. I watched all the wonderful speeches from the modern-day civil rights icons, but what really made me sit up was the voiceover saying that James Lawson was to be the next speaker. I hadn’t known he was still alive. How glad I was to see and hear directly from this man who had such a powerful effect on the nonviolent movement and on John Lewis in particular.

Dr. Lawson, who is 90, established The James Lawson Institute (JLI) in 2013 to educate organizers and leaders about nonviolence. A documentary about Dr. Lawson may be seen at https://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/witnesses/james_lawson.html.

 

Atlanta’s First African-American Cops

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In the accompanying photograph, the first African-American policement in Atlanta are, from left in the front: Henry Hooks, Claude Dixon, Ernest H. Lyons; back: Robert McKibbens, Willard Strickland, Willie T. Elkins, Johnnie P. Jones, and John Sanders.

I recently read Georgia author Thomas Mullen’s first in a series of mysteries featuring the first African-American policemen in Atlanta.

After the first book, Darktown, appeared in 2016, he wrote an article for the Atlanta magazine about the history of the eight men who took the great risk of doing a job neither white people nor many African-Americans wanted them to do.

The second book in the series, Lightning Men, is newly released.

Mayor William Hartsfield was perhaps not considered progressive, but he was looking to bring Atlanta into compliance with mid-20th century civil rights laws. He met with religious leaders, including Martin Luther King Sr., about ways in which African-Americans could progress in their native city. He and Police Chief Herbert Jenkins (himself a member of the Klan) initiated the young men into the police force on April 3, 1948.

In his speech that day, Mayor Hartsfield acknowledged that 95% of the white police did not agree with the idea of having African-Americans on the force. That 95% would make life very difficult for the black officers in the years to come. In fact, they were not allowed to work out of the white police headquarters, but were consigned to a basement in the Butler Street YMCA for five years.

They were also not allowed to arrest white people, drive squad cars, or wear their uniforms to and from the Butler St. Y. Their beat was the Sweet Auburn area, consisting of black middle class and underclass neighborhoods. The area was called “Darktown” by white folks, and God help the black cop who tried to do anything to solve a crime that would take him out of that neighborhood.

Darktown fictionalizes two of those first recruits. Lucius Boggs is the son of a respected minister. He has a college degree and had lived a fairly privileged life for an African-American until World War II when he enlisted and was kept at the South Carolina training camp for the entire war because of superiors not wanting to send men overseas who might be inclined to tell foreigners what being black in the US was really like.

Boggs’s partner, Tommy Smith, comes from the underclass neighborhood of Sweet Auburn. He was on active duty during the war, in a tank division. He is muscled and has never been able to afford the sensitivities that define his partner.

One night they see a white man hit a lamppost on their beat. When they go to investigate, they find a young black woman with him. She has a bruise on her jaw. A couple of days later, they are called to the scene where her body has been disposed of, a bullet through her heart.

It is clear that the white force couldn’t care less about who had murdered her. Boggs takes it upon himself to investigate and begins to break every rule laid down by white supremacy of what he can and can’t do as a “Negro” police officer.

Thus begins a harrowing tale of the injustices heaped upon the African-American community of Atlanta by Klansmen in the police force, of ex-cops who form a group called the Rust Division who come in to help out the white cops when things need to be cleaned up, of the efforts by the white cops to undermine their African-American colleagues, and the almost superhuman effort by the black cops to continue in their jobs when they realize what they’re facing.

Mullen, who is white, started his research in 2012. He says in his article, “I learned of these officers when I read former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Gary Pomerantz’s 1996 history of Atlanta, Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn. He devotes just four pages of his 545-page epic to the city’s first black cops, whose swearing-in prefaced the coming victories of the civil rights movement. But I wanted to know more. As black people in the Jim Crow South, they were second-class citizens, barred from the front of buses, most restaurants, and public parks, and constantly at risk of state-sanctioned or mob-rule violence. Yet they were also authority figures, charged with enforcing laws that often oppressed them and their families.”

A transplant from Rhode Island to, eventually, Decatur, Mullen was fascinated by this bit of history. He saw it as a vehicle for depicting larger social conflicts. At the time of his research, Michael Brown and so many others were still alive, but Trayvon Martin had been murdered by George Zimmerman and a united effort to undermine the first African-American President had begun. Police violence against African-Americans was not yet country-wide news, yet certainly those in Atlanta knew only too well what police violence was like.

Mr. Mullen also acknowledges that, as a transplant from Rhode Island, might seem to be trying to muscle in on the work of native Southern writers. But, he said, “My past work has wrestled with what it means to be American and how the various tangled threads of our past have combined to weave us into who we are today. To write about American identity in the South means writing about race.”

The full article can be read here: Thomas Mullen talks about Darktown

The eight men came from a variety of backgrounds. Ernest H. Lyons had seen a woman stabbed when he was 7 years old. No police came to help. The incident made him want to be a cop. John H. Sanders was the salutatorian of his graduating class at Booker T. Washington High School, but he could only find work as a janitor. When they plus Claude Dixon, Willie T. Elkins, Johnnie P. Jones, Henry Hooks, Robert McKibbens, and Willard Strickland began active duty, they were called “YMCA cops” by some black people who resented their authority. White cops made false reports of wrongdoing by the black policemen and even tried to run them over as they crossed the street.

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Officer Claude Mundy (far right), the first black officer killed in the line of duty, in front of the Butler Street YMCA.

Mullen’s novel is well-written and certainly atmospheric, to the point where I could say it should probably not be read by everyone. For me, as a white woman, I read such books in order to bear witness to the victims of racial violence wherever and whenever it occurs. It’s often not easy for me. There were many times while reading Darktown that I had to close the book because of its relentless realism.

But if reading such a book is painful to me, I have to always remind myself of the pain suffered by the victims themselves, throughout our tortured history. It is, in part, my way of atoning for America’s original sin.

American Imprisonment

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American journalists Shane M. Bauer and Joshua F. Fattal left a notorious Iranian prison in 2011 after two years in captivity. A third journalist, Sarah Shourd, had already been released in 2010 after the three, who were reporting from Iraq, took a suggested hike and found themselves being accused of having crossed into Iran as spies.

Bauer, who is now married to Shourd, gives a brief account of the ordeal in his book, American Prison, an account of his real undercover exploit as a guard in a for-profit prison in Louisiana.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPossibly Bauer, who works for Mother Jones Magazine, is the only person who could truly sum up the brutality of a private prison because he already knew what prison brutality could be like.

And in fact, there were factors in the American prison that he called worse than what he experienced in the Iranian prison.

American Prison,  A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, released this fall, was named in The New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 best books of 2018.

Just when it seemed that there was hope for prison reform under President Obama, the country fell into the abyss of the Trump regime and the Sessions Justice Department. While Bauer’s experience happened in 2014, there was hope that the tide against mass incarceration and imprisonment for profit might turn.

Instead we have more imprisonment for profit, called detaining young immigrants, and rollback of sentencing laws.

Bauer’s book about one of the prisons operated by Corrections Corporation of America (since renamed CoreCivic) is a painful but, in my opinion, necessary read. One will not be surprised that many of the worst abuses are against African-American prisoners. There are no legitimate efforts made to rehabilitate prisoners, and medical attention is applied sparingly because it cuts the profits. Prisoners have died from neglect.

Perhaps the worst is the utter hopelessness that is reflected in Bauer’s voice at the situation prisoners find themselves in. He describes an inmate nicknamed Corner Store who spends a year beyond his sentence in Winn, Louisiana, because his mother lives out of state and the prison provides him with no help in finding a situation in Louisiana that he can be released to.

If possible, even more frightening is Bauer’s own reactions to being a guard. He starts out trying to be empathetic but finds himself becoming hardened as time goes on to a point where he is writing up prisoners for trivial abuses of the Draconian regulations and beginning to not care a damn about the human beings he is hurting.

Bauer underwent this transformation in only four months, before his photographer was discovered on the jail’s property and Bauer and Shroud skedaddled. The photographer was locked up in Winn; Mother Jones’s lawyer was able to get him released.

For-profit prisons operate on a state level, contracting with the state for prisoners. But we can guess that both state and federal prisons are badly in need of reform, as are mandatory sentencing and over-sentencing. Michelle Alexander began the discussion with The New Jim Crow; Bryan Stevenson continued it with Just Mercy. Paul Butler advocates for prison reform in Chokehold, and I’m sure there are other books out there that I not read that advocate the same.

The point is, these books will continue to need to be written until the United States looks at incarceration and sentencing from a true point of justice and not from a point of vengeance.