Who better to speak to the horrors of a broken prison system than a former inmate? Glenn Langohr’s inside view of life behind bars, in some of California’s most brutal prison facilities, is an eye opening, day in the life view that no other author could provide. Through his eyes, we see the inner workings of a system that few of us ever see, and all of us dread.
His opening salvo is a hat-tip to my other cause celebre, the mistreatment of our most unfortunate of fur children – shelter animals. He uses this chapter though, as a lead-in to a story of brutal torture, inept administration, racism, deception, derision, divisiveness, prejudice and injustice. In Underdog, Langohr makes the point that the time spent breaking inmates could be much better spent, building – or rebuilding – Human beings.
The 37 page book – more a novella, really – takes the reader on a first person account of a prison riot, triggered, both by a power vacuum within the heavily segregated racial schema, and the rampant Heroin use that has become such an integral part of prison life. From there, we’re made privy to a lockdown in the hole and the rabid need to classify all inmates as gang members. We’re told in exacting detail, the methodology used by gang investigators to determine an individual’s status – tattoos, self-identification, and the word of other prisoners. No burden of proof, no advocacy, no defense. You’re branded a gang member and thrown into solitary without so much as a how do you do.
The first demand the prisoners wanted addressed was the process Pelican Bay uses to validate gang members to SHU terms without end. They went on to say that prisoners are accused of being active participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, where in the isolated SHU, their only way out is to debrief and that it provides false information, wrongly landing other prisoners in the SHU, in an endless cycle.
In Underdog, we’re given first hand views of several California facilities ending with the infamous Pelican Bay, during the height of the hunger strike that made the name of that institution a household word – the Western Attica.
I found Langohr’s voice to be open and brutally honest. His prose is neither stilted nor flowery. He writes about his subject in plain English, and peppers his work with the argot of the places that had so much impact on his life. Through Glenn, we learn the meaning of terms like off the shelf and IGI Gooners.
There is a marvelous first person tension to his writing. He’s not an academic writing about the prison system for a college text book, he’s a former prisoner and activist, writing about it for you and me.
I felt handcuffs placed around my wrist and heard the noise of them being tightened and then felt the steel bite into my skin. I was pulled backwards out of the visiting booth and steered in a half circle.
I said, “What are you going to do, arrest me for finding out you torture prisoners?”
Parker responded, “We’re escorting you off the prison. We’ll get you when you come back to prison, almost all do.”
But best of all, Glenn has agreed to become a contributor to DeafInPrison.com. We look forward to reading many great posts from Glenn. In summation to this review, I’d say that if he writes for us, half as well as he writes in his books, we’re in for some great reading.
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.
- No Taxes For New Prisons by Glenn Langohr (rollcallthebook.wordpress.com)
- Former Prisoner Glenn Langohr Spoke to 100 Students at UC Irvine About His Books, Prison Time and Solitary Confinement (enchantedsolitaire.com)
- Former Prisoner Glenn Langohr Spoke to 100 Students at UC Irvine About His Books, Prison Time and Solitary Confinement (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- Solitary Confinement Abuse Rampant in California Prisons (reason.com)
- Inmates at another California prison launch hunger strike (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Amnesty International blasts solitary at state prisons (fresnobee.com)
- How Prisoners Make Us Look Good – From the NYT (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- The world’s only female chain gang (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- Inmates: Gangs run private prison (toledoblade.com)
- Private Prison Company Allegedly Partnered With Violent Gangs To Save Money (thinkprogress.org)