Revealed: Hidden costs of incarceration burden inmates’ families

Editor’s note: While this blog follows Gideon Walletsky’s time in prison, it’s important to remember that many of his experiences are shared by thousands of inmates across the United States. From time to time, Gideon’s stories will serve as a starting point in examining larger issues in America’s prison system. This installment of Revealed takes a look at the hidden costs of incarceration.

Most people assume inmates get many things—for example, food and personal supplies—for “free,” but that’s not always the case. Yes, inmates’ basic necessities are provided by the prison system, but their families are expected to pay for an array of items related to their care. Continue reading

Hotel monkey washer: Gideon’s stay with a gang leader

Gideon was puzzled when a guard he didn’t know suddenly forced him to move into a new cell without explanation on April 7, a Friday. It was true that he had filled out paperwork to move in with a friend, but he was assigned to a completely different cell with a completely different celly. The worst part: The move broke up a cell of two monkey washers (gang leaders), and Gideon was now forced to live with the Gangster Disciples’ second-in-command. Continue reading

Gideon Walletsky: convict, lifer, and … purse-maker?

When Gideon called his daughter, Naomi, to ask for $25 recently, she naturally assumed the worst. She just knew he needed money for his recurring drug habits, but that wasn’t the case. This time, something wonderful and exciting had happened: Gideon had been given the chance to work in the prison’s leather shop, where inmates make products like purses, belts, and even gun holsters. Continue reading

Prison drug dealers hold Gideon’s TV ransom

When Gideon realized he would struggle to pay his most recent drug bill a week ago, he thought he understood the potential consequences. In the past, unpaid debts led to prison drug dealers threatening to stab or beat him, but the dealers took a different approach this time. Instead of threatening violence, they took away his lifeline to the outside world and sole source of entertainment: They confiscated his TV and refused to return it until he paid them. Continue reading

Revealed: Prison dental care leaves Gideon ‘chewing like a beaver’

Editor’s note: While this blog follows Gideon Walletsky’s time in prison, it’s important to remember that many of his experiences are shared by thousands of inmates across the United States. From time to time, Gideon’s stories will serve as a starting point in examining larger issues in America’s prison system. This installment of Revealed takes a look at prison dental care.

For many people, a trip to the dentist is an open invitation for strangers to pry into their mouths with all sorts of medieval-looking implements. It’s a torture session at worst, an uncomfortable inconvenience at best. But for inmates with serious dental issues, the hope of healing overshadows the discomfort of going to the dentist. Continue reading

Article: My four months as a private prison guard

In 2016, Shane Bauer with Mother Jones spent four months working as a correctional officer at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana. The long months of working in a facility operated by the nation’s largest for-profit prison services provider, Corrections Corporation of America (now known as CoreCivic), resulted in a fantastic article on the deficiencies in private prisons. In the article, Bauer recounts the ease of getting hired, the corruption of some of the officers, and the tolerance of inmate drug use. He discusses several disturbing incidents, including prisoners ogling a female officer and an inmate washing his clothes in his cell toilet. Read “My four months as a private prison guard.”

Prison life: sugar mamas, Facebook, and cigarettes

When his friend’s sugar mama didn’t send $25 as expected, Gideon knew it would lead to trouble. Gideon and his friend had been using the sugar mama’s money to buy tobacco, and they already had the latest batch in hand. They knew they would have to pay for it. Continue reading