The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering the prisons

prison by Tim Pearce, Los Gatos

Private Prison Barbarism
[Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars]

Here’s an appalling story of guards at a private prison just standing by and watching as one inmate beat another so severely that the man suffered serious brain damage:

The surveillance video from the overhead cameras shows Hanni Elabed being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managing to bang on a prison guard station window, pleading for help. Behind the glass, correctional officers look on, but no one intervenes when Elabed is knocked unconscious.

No one steps into the cellblock when the attacker sits down to rest, and no one stops him when he resumes the beating.


Dostoevsky said that. It is a potent indictment of our prison system that we seem to be descending into something most Russians would easily identify with.

And what the private prison company is upset about is that the video is being shown, not that its employees stood and watched. Or that medical attention arrived many minutes late.

The prison apparently uses these inmate-on-inmate incidents to coerce prisoners. Better give the guards what they want. Otherwise, get transferred to the violent wing.

In this case, the prisoner was so badly beaten that he had to be released because the prison could not care for him.

Of course, the AP is publishing these without the permission of either the company or the courts. Sometimes exposing leaked information may have a useful purpose.