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Why can’t you read the punk history ‘American Hardcore’ in California state prison?
09.28.2017
07:53 am
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If you get sent up the river in California and you like to read about music, better stick to biographies of Tommy Dorsey and Rudy Vallee. State prisons have banned the book American Hardcore: A Tribal History on the grounds that it “shows obscene material displaying penetration of the vagina or anus.” That’s false, says the book’s publisher, Feral House: “Not a single risqué image in the whole book.”

American Hardcore, now in its second edition, is the popular history of hardcore punk that was the basis for the 2006 documentary of the same name. Earlier this week, Feral House’s Facebook account posted a letter from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to the book’s author, Steven Blush:

Dear Steven Blush-Feral House Publishing:

This letter is to advise you that your publication entitled, American Hardcore, A Tribal History, Second Edition, by Steven Blush has been placed on the Centralized List of Disapproved Publications by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and will not be delivered to CDCR inmates statewide.

This decision is based on the violation of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 15, Section 3006, Contraband. The publication shows obscene material displaying penetration of the vagina or anus and shall not be delivered to the inmate(s), as it violates Department policy.


Last year, the Virginia Department of Corrections banned the GWAR coffee-table book Let There Be GWAR, which at least includes some pictures of genitals and bodily fluids that might keep a reader company during the cold penitentiary nights. As I recall, the worst obscenities in American Hardcore are musical, along the lines of Discharge’s Grave New World or SSD’s How We Rock.

“Hardcore.” They must have mistaken it for a book about porn, you think.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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09.28.2017
07:53 am
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Vintage photos of what it was like to spend Christmas in jail
12.22.2015
09:33 am
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The
The “Rock Islanders” prison band of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, 1940s

As full of joy and merriment as the holidays can be, unless you are completely out of touch with reality, Christmas isn’t always a happy time of year for a lot of folks. I mean, all you have to do is look around you to figure that one out. Of course, it probably doesn’t get much worse than spending the holidays in the clink.
 
Christmas morning in the
Christmas morning in the “drunk tank” in Downtown Los Angeles, 1952
 
Some of the images that follow date all the way back to the early 1900s and while a few of them are rather grim, there are many that actually show inmates in a seemingly jovial mood despite their jail-bound circumstances. Such as the one of an inmate at the Orange County Jail playing Santa with a mop on his head and a newspaper hat. Count your blessings, Dangerous Minds readers: It could always be worse.
 
Prisoners at the District Jail Washington, DC in 1909
Prisoners at the District Jail in Washington, D.C., 1909
 
Inmates at the Raymond Street Jail, Brooklyn New York, 1932
Inmates celebrating Christmas at the Raymond Street Jail, Brooklyn New York, 1932
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.22.2015
09:33 am
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California prison photographs from the 1980s
12.09.2015
04:51 pm
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In 2013 Paris Photo LA purchased a collection of photographs taken in California prisons between 1977 and 1993 for $45,000, a price that startled a good number of observers. In 2011, a collector named Myles Haselhorst had paid “a low four figure sum for the collection—which includes two photo albums and numerous loose snapshots totaling over 400 images.” In the space of two years the collection changed hand several times. Haselhorst “doubled” the money he’d paid for them; Harper’s Books, the final seller of the collection, paid $20,000 for it.

Here is an excerpt of Harper’s description of the collection:
 

Taken between 1977 and 1993. By far the largest vernacular archive of its kind we’ve seen, valuable for the insight it provides into Los Angeles gang, prison, and rap cultures. The first photo album contains 96 Polaroid photographs, many of which have been tagged (some in ink, others with the tag etched directly into the emulsion) by a wide swath of Los Angeles gang members. Most of the photos are of prisoners, with the majority of subjects flashing gang signs.

The second album has 44 photos and images from car magazines appropriated to make endpapers; the “frontispiece” image is of a late 30s-early 40s African-American woman, apparently the album-creator’s mother, captioned “Moms No. 1. With a Bullet for All Seasons.”

 
Pete Brook of the blog Prison Photography asks some pertinent questions:
 

As a quick aside, and for the purposes of thinking out loud, might it be that polaroids that reference Southern California African American prison culture are – in the eyes of collectors and cultural-speculators – as exotic, distant and mysterious as sepia mugshots of last century? How does thirty years differ to one hundred when it comes to mythologising marginalised peoples? Does the elevation of gang ephemera from the gutter to traded high art mean anything? I argue, the market has found a ripe and right time to romanticise the mid-eighties and in particular real-life figures from the era that resemble the stereotypes of popular culture. It is in some ways a distasteful exploitation of people after-the-fact. Perhaps?

-snip-

If the price tag seems crazy, it’s because it is. But consider this: one of the main guiding factors for valuations of art is previous sales of similar items. However, in the case of prison polaroids, there is no real discernible market. Harper’s is making the market, so they can name their price.

 
Whether the art market is fetishizing African-American gang members or not, the likely result of the exorbitant price for these photos will be to incentivize owners of similar collections to make them public, which is good news for purchasers of art books and readers of websites like Dangerous Minds.
 

 

 

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.09.2015
04:51 pm
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Say WHAT? Deputy sheriffs force prison inmates to fight like gladiators—and bet on the result
03.27.2015
11:32 am
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It’s been a bad time for law enforcement, as scandals involving abuse of authority (oftentimes with lethal results) have been a mainstay of news coverage since last summer, after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY; and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio at the hands of police officers. The three killings, which seemed to point to serious structural race issues not only in the police but in society at large, sparked large-scale protests about police brutality and racial equity. In addition to that the stop and frisk controversies in New York and the recent attention paid to subjects like the militarization of police forces around the country and civil forfeiture have given ordinary citizen cause to be suspicious of the motives and methods of law enforcement personnel.

Yesterday the San Francisco Chronicle published a remarkable story that threatens to add to the list of at best questionable and almost certainly felonious practices among law enforcement personnel—San Francisco deputy sheriffs purportedly forcing inmates to “fight each other, gladiator-style, for the entertainment of the deputies.”
 

Since the beginning of March, at least four deputies at County Jail No. 4 at 850 Bryant St. threatened inmates with violence or withheld food if they did not fight each other, gladiator-style, for the entertainment of the deputies, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said.

Adachi said the ringleader in these fights was Deputy Scott Neu, who was accused in 2006 of forcing inmates to perform sexual acts on him.

-snip-

“I don’t know why he does it, but I just feel like he gets a kick out of it because I just see the look on his face,” said Ricardo Palikiko Garcia, one of the inmates who said he was forced to fight. “It looks like it brings him joy by doing this, while we’re suffering by what he’s doing.”

-snip-

Neu told Garcia and Harris that if they required medical attention, they were to lie and say they fell off a bunk, Garcia said.

“And he told me anything goes,” he said. “Just don’t punch the face, so no one can basically see the marks. But anything goes, other than the face.”

Garcia said that at 5 feet 9 and 150 pounds, he was the smallest man in the pod while Harris, at 6 feet and 350 pounds, was the biggest.

During the first fight, which took place in a part of a hallway that was blocked from view, Neu appeared to have been betting on Harris, Garcia said, who tapped out after the smaller man got him in a headlock.

 
These accusations come from public defender Jeff Adachi, who called the nightmarish bouts “outrageously sadistic scenarios, that sound like its out of Game of Thrones.” In one of those denials that don’t sound all that convincing, an attorney for the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the union representing the deputies, said that the allegations were “exaggerated,” and characterized the fighting as “little more than horseplay.”

Harris said Neu had a tattoo on his right arm and lower leg reading, “850 Mob,” possibly in connection to the jail’s location at 850 Bryant St.

Here’s a report from KNTV, the NBC affiliate in the Bay Area:
 

 
via SFist
 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.27.2015
11:32 am
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Cards for Convicts: When you care enough to send an inmate the very best
03.11.2015
09:41 am
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Hard Time
 
It’s often been said that the most successful business owners really know their audience. Not sure of his back story, but Tennessee-based Jason Brown seems to know a lot about prison culture. His company, Cards for Convicts, makes a line of black-and-white greeting cards geared to inmates.

Serving time is a serious matter, of course, but Brown is trying to take some of the sting out of being in the Big House:

Our allegiance lies with those sentenced to suffer and we make it our mission to ease their suffering. With words we tear down walls and reach through the glass. We keep hope alive everyday come mail-call. We understand the feeling an inmate gets when their name is called in front of everyone making it clear that they are not forgotten and that someone, somewhere still cares a great deal for them.

Here’s a look at some of the cards.

This is a special birthday card for an incarcerated loved one:

Happy Birthday
 
It reads:

Happy Birthday
May your favorite meal be served at dinner,
Your day be lock-down free,
And you be one day closer to being home.

Conjugal visits might hard to get, but a card that pokes fun at a prisoner’s breath isn’t:

Conjugal visits
 
Here’s one daddy’s girl can send that pulls on the ol’ heartstrings:

A little older
 
This card might arrive a little too late:

Mugshot
 
Parents of prisoners, there’s one you can send to your “baby”:

baby
 
This one is pretty cheeky:

mistakes were made
 
There’s even sexy time messages:
Sexy time
 
Check out more of these cards.  Each are priced at $2.50. Here’s hoping you’re never in a position to receive one.

Posted by Rusty Blazenhoff
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03.11.2015
09:41 am
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Cartoonist draws her stay in LA county jail with only a golf pencil
01.05.2015
09:41 am
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When cartoonist Elana Pritchard violated a court order, she was sentenced to two months in the Los Angeles County prison system—hardly a well-spring of inspiration for most artists. Pritchard’s mentor however, is famed cartoonist and animator Ralph Bakshi, perhaps best known for his brilliant feature-length cartoon Fritz the Cat, the first animated film to receive an X-rating from the MPAA. Bakshi encouraged Pritchard to chronicle her time behind bars, and what she produced using only a golf pencil and whatever paper she could scrounge up is a gorgeous comic memoir.

Stylistically, you can see Bakshi’s witty influence in her work, but there are notes of R. Crumb’s exasperated humanity and Jon Kricfalusi‘s wild sense of movement and form as well. The filth, the scarcity and the brutally, nonsensically regimented life of a prisoner is all drawn out with humor and pathos. While Pritchard portrays most of her fellow inmates with vigor, character and charm, she draws herself as a literal hapless baby, barely able to function. As you might expect, authority figures aren’t quite so flatteringly depicted.

To read more about Pritchard’s prison time, check out her essay at LA Weekly, where she talks about the dreaded “squat and cough,” being shuffled around without explanation, trying to keep clean when laundry, hot water, toilet paper and maxi pads were never in abundance and even a harrowing encounter with some male inmates attempting to trade tits for meth. I wonder what the MPAA would think of that.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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01.05.2015
09:41 am
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‘K-11’: the most brutal cell block of all?
07.05.2012
09:15 pm
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image
 
K-11 is a new film directed by Jules (mother of Kristen) Stewart, about a prison complex in LA for homosexuals and transgender inmates. It looks brutal, exploitative, and I can’t wait to see it.

The trailer is pretty self-explanatory: a record producer ends up in jail, charged with killing a cop, after he blacks out. The prison is the titular K-11, and there he must navigate a murky world of mixed genders and shifting loyalties in order to survive. (Hmm, maybe I should go into b-movie copy writing?)

Yeah, it sounds corny, but it looks pretty well shot and the cast is decent (though some actual trans actors wouldn’t have gone amiss, and I would love to have seen Kristen Stewart in this, as was originally cast - perhaps she was slated to play Mousey, the prison’s tough bitch queen?) But you know what really surprises me about this? For a subject that looms so large in the American subconscious, it’s surprising that there haven’t been more films about homosexuality in jail.

Even HBO’s mighty Oz was disappointing in that respect (if pretty much perfect in any other.) Sure, two of the main male characters fell in love (or did they?) but the show failed to explore the prison’s gay subculture, in the way it did the Nazis, Nation of Islam, Latinos, etc. Gay characters were only shown flitting away campy in the background, or as facilitators for other characters’ story lines.

K-11 is hardly going to be perfect, but for films about gay life behind bars, it’s a start:
 

 
Pardon my ignorance, but are US prisons really segregated by sexual orientation and transgender identity?

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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07.05.2012
09:15 pm
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Suffering in Style: ‘The Mark of Cain’
05.07.2012
02:25 pm
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image
 
Now over a decade old, Alix Lambert’s The Mark of Cain remains far and away the best prison documentary that I’ve ever seen. Examining Russian inmates and their tattooing traditions, it is a brutal, yet very beautiful, film that brings to mind Dostoevsky’s assertion in The House of the Dead that many of the individuals encountered in the course of his own Siberian stint were among his nation’s most gifted and intelligent. Somehow, in spite of the starvation, overcrowding and violence, an almost perverse atmosphere of high culture pervades this documentary – Tarkovsky’s shadow, for example, is as inescapable as Dostoevsky’s, due not least to the chilling phrase inmates use to refer to prison: The Zone.

Early on we meet Semyon Dyachenko, an otherwise reasonable seeming fellow (and mean tap dancer) imprisoned for decapitating three gypsies who had robbed his mother’s grave.“I have my own laws,” he mumbles through an epic moustache, “if you don’t encroach on what is holy I’ll leave you among the living” (Lambert’s entire cast, by the way, are apparently incapable of uttering a sentence devoid of lyricism). Semyon gestures to a Janus-faced creation tattooed beneath his ribs – half woman, half snarling beast: “It’s called, ‘People are Animals to Each Other,’” he says, unwittingly (?) invoking Man is Wolf to Man, the classic memoir of Soviet brutality by the (now I come to think of it) eerily named Janusz Bardach…

Perhaps the film’s most memorable individual is the young inmate named Aleksandr Borisov, a sublime tattooist who executes his work with a wind-up contraption made out of a razorblade, a ballpoint pen, and a sharpened guitar string (the makeshift ink is derived from a mixture of soot and urine). “This machine, you could say, is my ticket to some kind of life here,” muses dour Aleksandr, before shrugging off his talent in characteristic style: “Leonardo Da Vinci had a special gift… but he didn’t see it, right? A person is a person. I don’t see anything special about me.”

Even the more popular prison tattoos have interesting meanings– the jagged stars on knees symbolise the refusal to kneel down before authority; sailing ships commemorate a roaming life – and the tattooed sentiments tend again to be outright poetic (‘Let all I have lived be as if it were a dream’; ‘A slave to fate but no lackey to the law’). The stunning churches that stretch across torsos and backs, meanwhile, with each cupola standing for a conviction, must be the most laughably Russian phenomenon of all time. As another typically erudite inmate puts it (throwing in a Martin Esslin reference for good measure): “The Zone is a kind of model of the state, only all the relations between people are exaggerated. It resembles the theatre of the absurd.”
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath
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05.07.2012
02:25 pm
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