Prisoners Are Not Human, But They Are Profitable

Wyoming Correctional Facility is a medium security prison located in Attica New York

Richard Luthmann

By Richard Luthmann

The response to my article Cruel But Not Unusual: An Insider’s Look at Sixty Days in the SHU at a Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility, has been strong. I received several touching private messages, and insightful public comments.

Eliminate the SHU

I will treat some interesting comments in more detailed posts. This first one is about eliminating the SHU:

“The SHU should be eliminated. Sensory deprivation for 23/24 hours is unconscionable. We have psychopaths in power – they are destroying America. All for money.”

The SHU at a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility.

The SHU at a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility. If you are assigned there, you will spend 23-24 hours every day, but not with the door open.  There is no entertainment, no work, little room to exercise and utter boredom. 

I think the commentator is right. Sensory deprivation is unconscionable. The SHU is a terrible place. It’s institutionalized torture, and no one should experience it. The problem is that the U.S. Supreme Court says it is constitutional.

Unconscionable, Not Unconstitutional

In the 1991 case of Wilson v. Seiter, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote an opinion for the Court that held: “A prisoner claiming that conditions of confinement constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Federal Constitution’s Eighth Amendment must show deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials.”

The late Justice Antonin Scalia was known for his scathing dissents. In Wilson v. Seiter, he was in the majority and wrote the Opinion of the Court.

The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was known for his scathing dissents. In Wilson v. Seiter, he was in the majority and wrote the Opinion of the Court.

The standard of fault is extraordinarily high and protects the BOP and its personnel. To find a prison official violated the Eighth Amendment through “deliberate indifference,” the BOP actor must know they are creating a substantial risk of bodily harm.

Actual knowledge is tough to prove, even where an inmate’s corpse is lying in the cell.

For example. A prison guard could put an inmate into a cell with a tiger. But if the guard did not know that a tiger was in the cell and the inmate got eaten, then the guard wasn’t at fault under deliberate indifference.

Sounds crazy, right? But that is the law.

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

There are a few things BOP Officials cannot do concerning SHU conditions. They cannot physically beat up the SHU prisoners (or any other inmates). They cannot deny them heat, water, food, medicine, or showers and exercise, which must be provided every so often. But aside from that, just about everything a correctional officer may do is protected. Nearly any action by BOP personnel is easily justified by “the safety and security of the institution” standards.

Prisoner Health and Safety Not an Overriding Concern

You would think that prisoner health and safety are essential values. But prisoner health and safety are a small part of the factors to be considered by BOP Administrators.

Title 28, Section 552.20 of the Code of Federal Regulations is a good example. This section authorizes BOP personnel to apply force to gain control of an inmate to protect and ensure the safety of inmates, staff, and others, to prevent serious property damage, and to ensure institution security and good order.

Under this language, there is practically nothing that the BOP and the prison cannot justify “to ensure institution security and good order.”

Are the fluorescent lights on in the cell 24/7, and the prisoner cannot sleep?

Too bad, the guard needs to see what’s going on in there. The prisoner is denied human contact for long periods. Too bad, that serves a valid penological purpose and keeps the institution running in good order. Short of a prisoner who dies at the hands of a guard who doesn’t give a shit that they are dying, the BOP and its personnel are protected. Even torture that does not result in death.

If you think that the SHU will change any time soon, you are sorely mistaken. You are better off taking your chances with the tiger.

Money in Prison Politics

The commentator thinks we have greedy people in charge. It’s true.

Greedy people on both sides of K Street in Washington make the rules.

Lawmakers and Officials are bought and sold by special interests: large companies that supply prisons nationally and the Prison Guards and Corrections Union lobby, for instance.

An urban legend when I was away was that “George Bush” owned all of the prison commissaries. I doubt that is the case (you never know), but I understand inmate frustration and the desire to blame “The Man.”

I guess “George Bush” is just as good as anyone to point to as a prisoners’ scapegoat for their sorry lot of high-priced low-quality sundries available in the compound canteen.

The Keefe Group is a large national supplier to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The Keefe Group is a large national supplier to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Speaking of greed, the other side of the equation is the “for-profit” private prisons.

There is recent news on this front. Thanks to the implementation of a Presidential Executive Order, the last BOP Prisoners have left private prisons. Some would tell you that this is excellent news. “BOP inmates shouldn’t be exploited for money,” they say.

Business is Booming in Private Prisons

They fail to tell you that for-profit private prison immigration detention centers, business is booming. They aren’t BOP institutions.

Large companies contract directly with DHS. Check out Moshannon Valley, for example. They are run by global private prison powerhouse The Geo Group, Inc. There are no plans to close that contracted ICE facility down. And why would they? Neither the detainees nor their families vote in U.S. elections.

The private prison companies give money to Washington politicians on both sides of the aisle. These politicians can tout the benefits of the “economic activity” a private facility delivers to their states and districts.

The Biden administration canceled private prison behemoth the Geo Group, Inc.'s BOP contracts. But they are doing just fine with private prisons for DHS and ICE.

The Biden administration canceled private prison behemoth the Geo Group, Inc.’s BOP contracts. But they are doing well with private prison contracts for DHS and ICE.

Sometimes private prisons can be good if done right.

For example, these prisons are “pay to play,” which means they more quickly adapt and incorporate new, helpful, and profitable technologies. These facilities already have tablets that prisoners can use to watch movies and FaceTime family members – all for a fee.

Many states, including California, have also implemented tablet programs. If you have the money, you can live better. This is how it is all around the world. The US BOP is the exception.

They treat everyone equally bad.

Inmate Tablets - Powerful Tool or Prison Racket?

Inmate Tablets – Powerful Tool or Prison Racket?

If you’re broke – like most prisoners are – private prisons put an enormous tax on the inmates’ families. Some have alleged prison tablets are a “predatory scheme.

Others say it’s good business, if you can buy enough political clout to get the contracts.

Can Technology Keep Prisoners Connected with Family?

There is a significant disconnect here.

Related to the original SHU article, most prisoners caught with cell phones have them because they want to be able to communicate with their spouses, kids, or other family members.

But the 100 Level charge makes it less of a punishment to square up and swing at a guard than it does to get caught with a cell phone.

So, the BOP presents yet another Faustian choice: have limited contact with your family, particularly with small children who may be in their formative years, or risk having a cell phone so you can be part of their lives.

Fatherlessness has consequences, and none of them are good.

Suppose you want to address generational criminality, race, and children of prisoners. Can the Government be surprised with poor outcomes for prisoners and children and families of prisoners when the BOP’s and the DOJ’s policies exacerbate the destruction of any semblance of family life?

Many inmates resort to illegal cell phone to stay connected to family. Will tablets serve as a legitimate alternative?

Many inmates resort to illegal cell phones to stay connected to family. Will tablets serve as a legitimate and affordable alternative?

The word is that the BOP is finally looking to roll out tablets in some of its facilities. With so many great options, I wonder what they will choose.

You guessed it. Keefe Company sells the BOP instant coffee, sneakers, and powdered refried beans.

And guess what. Keefe sells tablets too! The tablets are expected to be in BOP inmates’ hands soon.

Can Things Change?

Over time, specific BOP policies can be costly to society. By the time the children of prisoners grow up and end up in the same system as their parents, BOP employees will have received paychecks for many years. The old guard will be out on retirement pension, and their children will have taken their place at the prison.

Here is a great economic model. Say Jack goes to prison for 20 years, and Bill, the guard, works at the prison, and watches Jack. 
Bill wants his son to follow in his footsteps, so he gets Bill, Jr. a job at the prison, and Bill Sr, retires after 20 years and gets his pension.  
Meanwhile, prisoner Jack does not want his son to follow in his footsteps. Jack serves his time and is released. But Jack Jr. gets into a legal jam and is sentenced to 20 years in prison.
So Bill’s son guards Jack’s son. And the generations continue and preserve their status and endure.  

The commentator said the “psychopaths are in power,” and they are “destroying America.”

Maybe they are. Perhaps we should let the tigers in at the national zoo in Washington, D.C., and take our chances as a country.

But let’s see if the tablets work first.

About the author

Richard Luthmann

Richard Luthmann is a writer, commentator, satirist, and investigative journalist with degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami. Once a fixture in New York City and State politics, Luthmann is a recovering attorney who lives in Southwest Florida and a proud member of the National Writers Union. 

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  • How can I cash in on prison profitability ? I’m an investor and I am perfectly willing to treat prisoners as commodore. They’re filth anyway.

        • Someone should let Richard know that Johnson “shits” on his guests.

          Johnson loves ridiculing people.

          Richard should know Johnson hates Jews.

          I’ll do a post of Johnson’s antiseptic slurs.

          • Is it true that Johnson once said to you, “if an Amway distributor can’t sell, he can’t ride dick, simple as that.”

          • —Is it true that Johnson once said to you, “if an Amway distributor can’t sell, he can’t ride dick, simple as that.”

            Yes. Scott said, “if you can’t sell boys, I’m not riding any of your dicks.”

            Scott could ride a “pole” up & down better than a pony on a

          • Why is it that if you brag about your sex life, you’re a stud, but if a certain Amway distributor brags about his
            sex life, he’s a slut.

          • “Why is it that if you brag about your sex life, you’re a stud, but if a certain Amway distributor brags about his
            sex life, he’s a slut.”

            Easy now Frank! No slut shaming! Just because Scott enjoys being an
            “Oklahoma jet ski” with his up-line guys doesn’t mean he’s gay slut.

            It just means he doesn’t take being a Mormon seriously.

          • I am not slut shaming him, but you must admit he is inordinately engaged in copulatory activities with his downline. I wonder how he ever finds time to sell the tool scam.

          • “I am not slut shaming him, but you must admit he is inordinately engaged in copulatory activities with his downline. I wonder how he ever finds time to sell the tool scam.”

            Clearly Scott excels at multitasking proactively. He can juggle multiple balls at the same time.

          • Richard will be told that you’re a liar and a coward. I don’t ridicule people, I ridicule idiots. I wouldn’t have Richard on my show if I hated Jews. Whatever post you do will be pure garbage. LOL

          • Scott, my boy, I cannot publish all your comments. Why don’t you get your own website. I am sure you will attract a large audience. There they will enjoy your unabridged diarrhea of comments.

            I wish you and yours a merry Christmas.

          • Stop the Anway tool scam. Stop it now. Nice Guy are you listening?

            I will say this. As big as an ass Scott is on these pages, he was the opposite on his podcast.

            I never saw a better gentleman and good host.

            I am suspecting this dichotomy in behaviors is part of the trauma of recovering from the tool scam. If one can ever be said to recover.

          • Scott, I know all about your toughness. As I recall, down in Texas, they call you the Limestone Kid.

          • I am more than scared. I am terrified. Just as I would if you had viral gastroenteritis and came to my house with a hungry face. Your comments are the rotavirus and norovirus of the Frank Report. The symptoms from your carping comments can last anywhere between two and ten days or more.

          • Your audience is microscopic. And my audience is always happier when you are not around. LOL.

          • Scott, a question. What progress are you making in stopping the Anway tool scam? Have they stopped selling the tools yet ?

          • A lot happened to me since I was on your show last.

            After speaking with you, I decided to become an Amway distributor. After some hard work, I broke Emerald with 3 legs and then Diamond with 6 platinum legs.

            Bonuses plus commissions came to $362,200.

            But the real money was education, selling books and audios, and my 50 percent split on conferences and weekly meetings.
            I started feeding off Jeff Bezo’s family.

            I made more money through LTD.

            I cannot say too much Scott, you and I know the deal. But I may not have been the best diamond ever with only 250 people but my work educating using and providing people with the tools was far more lucrative than the base stuff.

            God bless Amway,

          • Scott, let me be serious then. My research suggests that about two-thirds of people who participate in Amway make more money than they spend.

            I suppose somewhere between 2-10 percent make enough money to quit their jobs and become full-time Amway.

            And less than one percent become millionaires.

            But that is the same percentage of people who do anything well.

            Scott, you may have spent most of your life working at Amway, and not succeeding. But some people make good money in two years, some in 5 or 10 years. You never made it.

            That does not mean it is wrong for all.

            I think the point you are missing is that Amway helps many people make part-time money.

            It helps them pay bills, save a little, and take a vacation. And importantly, it has a social aspect,

            It helps people meet other people and have friends. Friends sometimes mean more than money.

            The business or success tools you hate so much are what they are – they help some people make more money in Amway and I suppose they help people in life since a lot of it is probably good common sense and might bring about good things unexpected.

          • Your research is seriously flawed, or you would have provided the details. Or you’re just flat out lying. Which one is it, Frank? Since you’re a known liar, I pick the latter.

          • Scott i am sorry you failed at Amway. Most of us succeeded. It might be talent or lack thereof.

          • Scott, there is life beyond Amway. I know you are angry about the years you lost failing at Amway and then trying to recover by claiming a product that is freely sold and purchased is a scam.

            Please try to do something with your life. You are young enough to make a comeback.

  • Richard-

    Will you address the protection and extortion rackets that the prison gangs, individual inmates, and guards run?

    These rackets exist in all prisons even minimum security lockups.

    I’m sure they got you for whatever you could afford.

    I’m aware of the fact if you have nothing they’ll force you to write family and friends for money.

    How much did you pay roughly
    $200 month or over $500 a month?

    On the other hand…..
    ….The protection is worth it so you don’t: get your commissary stolen; receive beatings, get ass raped, or forced to break prison rules and add to your jail time.

    I support you. I’m not your biggest fan, BUT I respect the fact you are trying to help people and standing up to a somewhat corrupt system.

  • RE: “The commentator said the “psychopaths are in power,” and they are “destroying America.” Maybe they are.”

    “Perhaps” they are?

    You apparently still deeply asleep living in lala land. It’s a choice. Always has been.

    The evidence that psychopaths are in power and are destroying American (and the world) is OVERWHELMING and TOTALLY IRREFUTABLE — read “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room”… ).

    But global rulership by psychopaths is only ONE part of the equation that makes up the destructive human condition as the cited article explains because there are TWO pink elephants in the room… and they’re MARRIED.

    Without a proper understanding, and full acknowledgment, of the true WHOLE problem and reality, no real constructive LASTING change is possible for humanity.
    And if anyone does NOT acknowledge, recognize, and face (either wittingly or unwittingly) the WHOLE truth THEY are helping to prevent this from happening.

  • Not much that I agree with Nicki Clyne on, but the need for radical prison reform is one of them. It should be a measure of the decency of any society to ensure fundamental human rights for all, including prisoners. Prisons should aim to reform inmates and prevent reoffending – the punishment is the deprivation of liberty.

  • I haven’t read the whole article yet, but just something about it that caught my eye right away:
    The tiger in the cell is a bad example to illustrate something. Prison is not a zoo, and tigers do not occur in prisons for humans. Probably there are however humans, who behave like wild beasts and are also some. There are people who are or can become dangerous for other people. This is probably more common in prison than in the general population. But there just isn’t general solitary confinement for everyone or that people don’t mix with other prisoners. And there is a high percentage of prisoners who are mentally ill. There are so many factors and the prison and its staff can’t take everything into account in terms of protecting individuals personally. There is always risk or some residual risk. You have to live or die with that.

    • Tiger Tiger Burning Bright – Blake’s imagery was that the Tiger represented the Devil. A BOP guard could put an inmate into a cell with the Devil himself and not be sued under the current legal standard. I think my comparison is apt and hits home the point.

      • For Blake, The Tiger represents the dread and awe of a god, a creation, that encompasses both good and evil. Blake was possibly a Swedenborgian, with maybe Hutterite sympathies? He was a radical dissident protestant who did not posess the sort of under-par imagination that posits good against evil as if they were football teams, that sort of thinking he held in complete contempt.

        See: Proverbs Of Hell, from The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell. Forgive my pedantry, I love William Blake.

  • That’s funny..
    Let the tigers in the White House?

    True what you say about fatherless children. True it’s a big money machine. True the shu or hole is vile. It’s barbaric.

    One thing though?
    They don’t treat everyone equally bad. The police give lots of special privileges for sex favors and « big house » relationships.

    By law, inmates are supposed to have water, heat, excercise – but that falls short all of the time. Lead poisoning in the water, lock downs for weeks at a time, no heat, no excercise.. All are common.

    People go in messed up, but lots of people only get worse going through the mill. Then they get out, breed and damage their children who inevitably end up institutionalized. This is a great topic.

    • The last thing you want to be is a jailhouse snitch. You keep away from the cops and they keep away from you.

      Snitches don’t get treated any better, they just feel that they are. I would put a snitch in the same category as a CHOMO or a RAT – prison scum.

      • Richard,

        Im glad for you, wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but dear lad, you very clearly have never been incarcerated.

        The police allow the prisoners to slice off snitches noses, cut jokers smiles from ear to ear. The very snitches that literally work for them.

        I like that you are broaching the subject, but it’s clear that you are pretty green.

        Sorry mate.

          • What prison have you been to?

            Not trying to scratch at you, genuinely wonder.

            You are right that it’s « gladiator school. » incarceration is a wild Machiavellian microcosm of the macro/world.

            That said :
            Nothing in life is fixed or stagnant.

            True that prisoners don’t tolerate snitches. But the trustees are snitches, who work for the police.

            The very truste who gives the police what they ask for ( information) might get special privileges (until they get the slice ) will then be told on by the police. Then sometimes that doesn’t happen. The rules are there are no fixed rules other than just survive.

            When prisoners are eventually let out from the big house, they have to de-program ( the learned criminal mind set ) to fit back into society.

            How does that make us feel as civilians? Makes me feel vulnerable.

            Someone wrote that criminals deserve the punishment, well I argue that that’s small minded because it’s ignoring the fact that we the people deserve to be safer from criminals after they serve time and the system is set up to perpetuate further dysfunctional behaviors, not subdue them.

            Unless you go through the system it’s kind of hard to fully grasp it.

            It’s like if you want to get alcoholism into submission, research shows that one of the best treatments for alcoholism is for one sober alcoholic to speak to another. You can’t con a con.

            Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good topic and I encourage you to keep going, but also hope that you will be open minded. It’s a platform to speak openly about a very powerful and important topic. Humanity is bound to make mistakes and how we treat these mistakes speaks volumes about our society.

            A lot of good people go to prison, it’s not all child molesters and murderers. A father might have wrote bad checks to save their babies life to pay for doctor bills he couldn’t afford. Yes they have to pay the price for breaking the law, but do they have to live in cells with maggot infested toilets with very little medical care, asbestos in the buildings, covert abuse, drug dealing between, yes, inmates and the police? Do they have to be punished by gangs ( rape, murder, terrorism ?)

            Millions of people are incarcerated, billions of dollars fund this, and we might be wise to look at what the final goal is.

            It’s odd that convicted child molesters are walking out of prison after as little as one month from the can, but there are still people serving long sentences for marijuana use. These offenders were criminalized by then DA Kamala Harris ( now Vice President of the United States of America ) who now admits she enjoyed smoking weed her homies.

            See how messed up it is?

            The system is quixotic.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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