Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Longest Yard

The casual brutality by guards against inmates depicted in The Longest Yard and other prison flicks raises a host of questions.

Was it ever thus, this world seemingly without grievance procedures, ombudsmen, visitors, or anyone else who might intervene?

Maybe it’s just that the violence trope makes for such strong narrative. Art, after all, can all too easily perpetuate myths and embellish half-truths. Burt Reynolds and his backers surely felt no obligation to depict reality when contriving their concoction about a prison football game between guards and inmates. They probably just wanted to entertain − and make some money.

Assaults do occur in correctional facilities − but they are more likely to involve inmates attacking guards than vice versa. As Ted Conover recounts in his memoir Newjack, about his stint as a “CO” at the notorious Sing Sing prison, violence (and the threat of violence) by inmates is a daily reality for correctional officers.

In other words, prison is not a Burt Reynolds movie.

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