kottke.org posts about jail

Reviewing jail on YelpSep 09 2015

An emerging genre:

"When I would shower, I would take my clothes and wash them, people thought it was funny, but it was really a way for me not to get my own clothes robbed being there was no jump suits," [Jason A.] wrote in a 1-star review of Rikers. "Food tasted like wet noodles and grill gristle.... I later learned to get a muslim halal card, and a jewish card, and know the kitchen staff to see which card would get me a better meal for the day."...

In reviewing the Wayne County Jail, Athena Kolbe, a Detroit social worker, says her aim was twofold: first, she wanted potential visitors to "be prepared for it mentally when you go into it." Second, "when you come out of it, know that all that disrespect you experienced, everybody else is also experiencing that. It's not just you."

This is what you need to know might be the best feature of any good review, and is arguably most essential when you don't have a lot of choice in the matter. Not just jails, but hospitals, homeless shelters, emergency psychiatric services -- there is a fair amount of official information, and there has always been informal word-of-mouth, but not many opportunities to get frank advice or to tell your story. Not much to make the experience anything but lonely and terrifying.

A tale of two bank robbers, or The Clerk and the PauperAug 26 2013

Today is a weird day for human-interest stories about bank robbers.

The New York Times highlights Shon R. Hopwood, a former bank robber who studied law in prison, successfully petitioned on behalf of another prisoner in a Supreme Court case his team won 9-0, and will soon be a clerk for the DC circuit federal appeals court, "generally considered the second most important court in the nation, after the Supreme Court":

The judge Mr. Hopwood worked for last summer said he deserved his 147-month sentence. "He used a weapon in some of those robberies, and that justified a very heavy hit," said Judge John C. Coughenour of Federal District Court in Seattle. "But everybody we sentence has the potential to turn their life around."

Meanwhile, one state south in Oregon:

Authorities in Oregon say a homeless man who held up a bank for $1 was just looking for a way to go to jail so he could receive free health care.

According to Clackamas County sheriff's deputies, 50-year-old Tim Alsip entered a Bank of America in Southeast Portland last Friday morning and handed the teller a note that read, "This is a holdup. Give me a dollar."

I know he's a busy man, but it would be remarkable if Mr. Hopwood could drive from Seattle to Portland and find a way to help Mr. Alsip be relegated to an appropriate facility.

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