In a recent study of United States prisons, 83 percent of prison guards were found to be not watching prisoners for a majority of their shifts. This news has come as a shock to the United States, where prisons are proudly known for their substandard or completely lacking health services for prisoners, excessively high prison populations due to mandatory minimum sentencing, and treatment of prisons as businesses aiming to gain a profit.
“I want to get one thing straight,” said Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) CEO Damon Hininger. “In our prisons, we do not tolerate the neglect of prisoners. Yes, we may serve food that’s full of maggots, and yes, we may have a lot of prisoners who are physically or sexually abused by guards or other inmates, but the difference is all that happens knowingly under our watch. If the guards aren’t doing their jobs, we can’t know if prisoners are receiving the rehabilitation via constant mistreatment that they need.”
In order to combat this “horrifying” statistic, CCA has built a “state of the art” Panopticon-opticon. Conceptualized by French philosopher Michel Foucault, a panopticon is a circular prison where all cells can be observed at any given time from a single, central watchtower with reflective glass. Foucault claims since prisoners never know when they are being watched, they act as if they are always watched and thus internalize their own surveillance. The CCA’s Panopticon-opticon allows guards to watch 5,000 prisoners from its traditional central watchtower, which itself has an internal watchtower monitoring the guards in order to verify that they are watching the prisoners. This design requires hiring 30 percent more guards who may or may not be assigned to the watchtower’s watchtower.
“It’s quite a simple concept,” said Hininger. “With the Panopticon-opticon, our guards are always watched, and we will always know that they are doing their jobs. We cannot have any more slacking off. As a guard, one has to make sure to watch any shifty inmates, to see to it that no escape plans are being made, and to turn a blind eye to any rapes or fights occurring. Otherwise, why even have a prison in the first place?”
The Panopticon-opticon, located in Great Falls, Montana, was contracted out by the Department of Justice and functions as a private prison run by the CCA. Reportedly, the prison cost 98 million dollars to build and costs an additional 50 million dollars to run each year, which is already 100 million dollars cheaper than first projected, due to the elimination of any reading or video entertainment for inmates, reduction of cell space from 10-by-7 feet to 6-by-4 feet, and using stitched-together paper bags as uniforms.
In order to make a profit, since the usual savings from neglecting prisoners were negated by the costs of the additional watchtower, CCA has decided to rent out inmates as testers for experimental technologies and medical procedures.
“This is a huge plus for both the CCA and the prisoners,” said Hininger. “Finally, we will be able to see if putting a salt/sugar mixture in a wound will be work just as well as antibiotics, and prisoners will be treated to basic medical care from an actual doctor, not just a guard wearing a lab coat that looks at their injuries for 40 seconds and says they are fine, before throwing them into an isolation cell half naked. A win-win situation, really.”