Prison

Jail Inmates Rush to Save Fallen Officer, Rather Than Escaping

Six inmates are being hailed as heroes after they saved the life of a correctional officer who passed out during a work detail on Monday.

The inmates of Polk County Jail in Georgia were working outside during a particularly humid morning when their security officer, who asked not to identified, collapsed unconscious. At that point, the prisoners could have taken the van and his gun and sped away, but instead they were only concerned with the man’s health.

The inmates rushed over to the fallen officer and found that he wasn’t breathing. The convicts then removed…

Inside an Abandoned Panopticon Prison in Cuba

The interior of one of the prison buildings.
The interior of one of the prison buildings.

Thirty miles off the southern coast of Cuba lies La Isla de la Juventud, the “Isle of Youth.” It is covered in lush vegetation and pine forests, and about half of the island falls under a “special municipality” designation, which prevents access except for those who have the proper permit from the Cuban government. The island is also home to the great ruin of an unusual and historic prison.

Most of the island’s residents are concentrated in Nueva Gerona, a port town on the north coast, which is only reachable by small, infrequent flights and a sometimes-unreliable ferry service. It is a sleepy existence today, but the island has a long and notorious history. It was popular with pirates, and was once known as Treasure Island—made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson. J.M. Barrie is also said to have drawn on accounts of the island when writing Peter Pan.

A local resident rides his bicycle through the entrance of Presidio Modelo.
A local resident rides his bicycle through the entrance of Presidio Modelo.

The island was given its name in 1978 by Fidel Castro (before that it was known as the Isle of the Pines), who had more than a passing acquaintance with it. In 1952, he spent two years there, along with his brother Raul, imprisoned…

‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season 5: TV Review

Courtesy of Netflix

Jenji Kohan overhauls her acclaimed Netflix prison dramedy with high stakes, a compressed time period and audacious but inconsistent results.

Plenty of series go into their fifth season complacent. That’s true even of some very good shows. You have a formula and an ensemble and an episodic structure and they work, so why mess with a good thing?

I would never accuse the first four seasons of Orange Is the New Black of coasting, but Jenji Kohan and her writers had found a thing that worked. You had Piper (Taylor Schilling) as a still point at the center, capable of being either bland or periodically dynamic. You had a cast of characters that could always be refreshed — freed or departing tragically, entering via transfer or sentencing. The injustices of our prison system and the people it persecutes disproportionately was an endlessly renewable theme.

After watching 10 of the first 13 episodes of the fifth season, one can surely give Kohan and Orange Is the New Black credit for refusing to play it safe. The fifth season deviates wildly from what came before it in terms of episodic rhythms, overall narrative urgency and tonal pitch. In some cases, the heightened stakes of the season help deliver some of the show’s best performances yet and beats of staggering emotion. In other cases, a series that has reliably been careful to treat even the ugliest behavior with nuance pushes to such extremes that it threatens to undermine a lot of what came before.

Orange Is the New Black found the irony in the opening of Regina Spektor’s “You’ve Got Time.” We looked into the all-too-human eyes of these so-called “animals” and then the series itself worked to subvert our expectations of the Litchfield Penitentiary inmates. There were some bad people in Litchfield, but there weren’t many animals. In the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black, the animalistic is brought to the surface, infecting even some beloved characters.

The extremes aren’t without justification. The show’s fourth season started with a lighter tone, but spiraled with the murder of Samira Wiley’s Poussey. Since Poussey was as adored by viewers as by her fellow inmates, there was no way her loss could just be dismissed with a single episode of unrest and then business as usual. [Note to Emmy voters: Last season is the one eligible for Emmy consideration this year and it would be wrong to forget how remarkable Wiley was, especially in the last two episodes.]

We left off in the finale with Dayanara (Dascha Polanco) pointing a gun illegally brought in by one of the guards (Michael Torpey).

And that’s where we pick up, too.

The fifth season, in fact, all takes place within three days, as the initial pandemonium of the stand-off progresses into a full-blown riot, complete with a hostage situation and the repeated splintering, reconstituting and re-splintering of the prison population as inmates begin to realize that they’re no longer confined to racially proscribed groups, prison-dictated jobs and carefully regimented times for hygiene, dining and recreation.

As a show set in a penitentiary, Orange Is the New Black has always focused heavily on actions and their consequences, sometimes unjust and sometimes disproportionate, but always worn as an orange badge of shame. Much of the fifth season is about characters literally changing their attire as guards are disrobed and Lost & Found boxes are raided, but quickly…

More Dutch Prisons to Close Due to Staggeringly Low Crime Rates

Due to the staggeringly low rates of crime in the Netherlands, five Dutch prisons are going to be closed by autumn.

The announcement comes not long after the Dutch government closed 19 of their prisons in 2013. Government officials addressed the closures by saying that the tiny country simply doesn’t have the capital to maintain such large, unoccupied facilities.

According to documents procured by the Telegraaf, the Zoetermeer, Heerhugowaard, Almere, Almelo, Ter Apel locations are all due to close.

CHECK OUT: Victim’s Family Buys Airfare for Loved Ones of Inmate About…

House Votes to End Jail Time for Those Too Poor to Pay Fines in Texas

Texas legislators in the House have just voted in favor of allowing poorer residents to pay off traffic tickets in methods other than money.

Low-income Texans are often punished for not paying their traffic tickets on time, resulting in more fines and punishments that usually only push them further into debt. Sometimes, these mounting fines and punishment result in jail time.

Now, however, state judges can ask defendants being tried for overdue fines about whether they…

Bernie Madoff’s closest prison pal is a crime-family boss

Metro

Shortly after Bernie Madoff arrived in prison, at the start of a 150-year sentence, the mastermind behind the largest fraud in financial history was slapped across the face.

Madoff was closely following the way his case was being reported in the media and had gone to the jail’s TV room to watch “60 Minutes.” When he changed the channel—in defiance of the prison’s unwritten rules, he soon learned—another inmate objected and wanted it changed back. There was a scuffle, and then a smack on the cheek.

It was then that Carmine John Persico Jr., the notorious boss of the Colombo crime family, known as “The Snake,” who has been serving his own century-plus sentence at the same prison, intervened.

“Carmine sent his boys over, or his ‘friends,’ rather, to ‘have a talk’ with the guy who delivered the slap,” recounted Steve Fishman, a journalist who has covered Madoff for years. Persico’s men “issued what Madoff called ‘an extraordinarily stern warning,’ and talked it all out. After that, Bernie got to watch” whatever he wanted.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between a pair of notorious, geriatric inmates (Madoff is just shy of 80 and Persico is 83) serving what amounts to life in prison.

According to Fishman, the host of “Ponzi Supernova,” an audio series about the case that features extensive interviews with the jailed Madoff, the mobster and the Ponzi schemer have become “good buddies,” with Persico also acting as both protector and mentor to the disgraced former nonexecutive chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market.

“It was Carmine who first greeted Bernie when he arrived,” Fishman said. “Carmine sent him shower slippers, tried to make him feel at home. Bernie didn’t know the rules of prison, and that was something Carmine was able to help with.”

The NYPD Organized Crime Task Force suspects that Persico, who served as his own attorney during his criminal trial in 1987, may be linked to multiple murders; nonetheless, Madoff calls him a “very sweet man,” Fishman said. “He talks about how Carmine was visited by his grandchildren, what a tender scene that was, and how gentle he was with them.” Madoff has lamented his own lack of family visits.

The former Wall Street money manager, who once hobnobbed with the deep-pocketed…

Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller prepares for prison: I will ‘pretend I’m shooting a movie’

Alright, Mr. DeMille: Abby Lee Miller is ready for her close-up.

In a Tuesday morning interview that recalled the sentiment fueling the closing moments of the Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard, the Dance Moms star told Good Morning America she’s going to treat her upcoming prison stay like a Hollywood production. “I’m just going to pretend I’m shooting a movie and we’re on set and I’m there for 10 months, and that’s how it’s going to be,” Miller told ABC’s Linsey Davis.

On Monday, the 50-year-old reality star was sentenced to 366 days in prison after allegedly hiding $775,000 from bankruptcy creditors between 2012 and 2013. She was first indicted on fraud charges in 2015, after reportedly concealing earnings from the long-running Lifetime program and its subsequent spinoff, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, during Chapter 11 proceedings.

Additionally, she was accused of transporting $120,000 (in individual plastic bags) from Austalia in friends’ luggage in 2014, violating a mandate that requires the declaration of more…

Add Some Wonder to Your Inbox

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Mannequin prisoners shackled in the French Colonial section of Hỏa Lò Prison.
Prison cells at the “Hanoi Hilton.” National Museum of the US Air Force (Public Domain)
The walls of the prison were topped with broken glass to prevent escape. Sean Madden (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Mannequin prisoners in the women’s section of Hỏa Lò Prison. Du Hangst (CC BY 2.0)
Vietnamese prisoners in 1908. Michael Rehfeldt (CC BY 2.0)
Maison Central, the French name for Hỏa Lò Prison. Clay Gilliland (CC BY-SA 3.0)
A piece of a sewer through which five prisoners escaped to join the Communist Resistance. David McKelvey (CC BY 2.0)
A plaque outside the prison illustrates tortures suffered at the hands of the French colonial government. ronan crowley (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The French called it Maison Central, a generic name for a colonial prison. The Vietnamese knew it as Hỏa Lò, which translates to “fiery furnace,” after the wood stove shops common in the surrounding neighborhood. Westerners know it best as the Hanoi Hilton. Whatever its name, the notorious prison housed a century of torture within its walls.

The…

Alanis Morissette’s Ex-Manager Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison for Embezzling Millions from the Singer

Pinterest
Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Amazon Studios

Alanis Morrissette‘s ex-manager was sentenced to six years in prisonon Wednesday for embezzling millions from the singer.

Johnathan Schwartz pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return in January, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

He admitted to stealing over $5 million from Morissette, as well as an additional $1.7 million from two other unnamed clients.

According to the Associated Press at the time, the incidents occurred between May 2010 and January 2014, with Schwartz falsely listing the criminal withdrawals as “sundry/personal expenses.” When first…