During early 90s I took a part time job with the Los Angeles Department of Corrections. What I thought to be true and what reality was; were two different things. I believed that the individuals incarcerated were being punished and were not able or allowed to do much of anything. Additionally, I believed that they basically sat in a jail cell and read books, drew pictures or wrote letters. I also believed that they were law abiding while in prison. In other words, I believed that they were limited in not being able to break the law. Additionally, I assumed they had virtually no contact with the outside world.
After 2 weeks of intense training in self-defense, first aid, and conflict resolution, I was then sent to cell block 6 (Death Row). This is where my perceptions began to give way to reality. I found that almost every inmate had a television and that free cable was provided with many movie channels available.
Most inmates had stereos with many CD's. However, they were required to wear headphones while listening to their music. I was surprised to find that the law mandated many privileges to the incarcerated individuals. Three hot meals a day was served and family members could send the inmates care packages at Christmas up to 100 lbs. In addition, there is a prison store that the inmates could order personal items and snacks from. Many ordered their favorite food items such as; soda, chips, cookies and candy.
Family members could send them money that was deposited to their account for future purchases. If an inmate had no money he could apply for welfare and get money from the state. Family members were also allowed contact visitation on a weekly basis. Several individuals on death...