Superjail for California Prison System?

In 2008 Adult Swim debuted its latest mind-boggling creation, Superjail. Watching the pilot episode, Bunny Love, you might find yourself wondering how in the hell the show’s creators managed to produce a Yellow Subamrine-Willy Wonka-Ren and Stimpy-Beavis and Butthead-pseudo psychedelic commentary on the privatization of the panopticonic world. However they did it, or whatever they did it on, Superjail provides a very interesting criticism on a subject that is controversial nation-wide.

Superjail, “the largest prison this side of dimension 5612” (Season 1 Episode 7), is a private corrections facility housed in a double volcano system owned and controlled by The Warden. “Ever since I was a kid I’ve dreamed of incarceration,” says The Warden. Adopting the legacy of privatized prisons from his grandfather, The Warden seeks to  “perfect the art of incarceration, but,” he laments, “the world is not ready for my methods.” “So,” he continues,”I went outside the system and I created Superjail.” (Season 1 Episode 1) Each episode showcases The Warden’s crazy antics and absolutely psychotic schemes to manage Superjail efficiently mostly resulting in some 30-45 second, if not minute long, sequence of bloody action that can only be described as genocide. In our tax-paying world genocide is not a favored option for inmate-control. Privatization of correctional facilities, however, is a real-life Superjail answer to the question of how to perfect the art of incarceration.

Such a question has haunted the dreams of California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger according to the article “Jailhouse Blues” in the February 13th issue of The Economist. Ontop of California’s many other problems, prisons are overcrowded, inefficient and quite expensive. 9.5% of the state’s spending budget gets spent on prisons while only 5.7% goes to Universities, which have already taken dramatic measures to balance budget cuts like closing off Spring 2010 admissions to the entire UC and Cal State system to cut student population.

Like The Warden, the Governator is going “outside the system”- but, he’s not going crazy, he’s going corporate. Corrections Corporation of America, CCA, boasts 60 facilities, 44 of which are “company owned”. Browsing around www.correctionscorp.com, CCA advertises like a business: talk of efficiency, marketing strategy, partership/investment opportunities, its place on the NYSE and economic benefits- when CCA enters your community, all taxes are paid for. After a contract expansion, “America’s Leader in Partnership Corrections” will take on 8,000 of California’s 167,000 inmates reports The Economist. Needless to say the burden is barely lifted, nor is it long-term affective, according to the piece.

www.partnershipprisons.com boldly reads that CCA brings “The Best of Both Worlds” where government oversight meets the effectiveness of business bringing cost savings, accountability, security and a “peace of mind for states, communities, and taxpayers.” This makes “government oversight” seem somewhat like a glamorous label. The prison looks like a business, runs like a business and produces benefits like a business but still gets called government. One has to wonder, if the government isn’t capable of this on its own, why doesn’t everything become privatized? Perhaps out of fear of hundreds of Wardens running investor-based panopticon playlands and the usual anti-big-private-business arguments. What we  aren’t wondering is, what’s wrong with the government? As the Superjail theme song so blatantly puts it, “life on the outside ain’t what it used to be.”

To see Episodes of Superjail, visit www.adultswim.com/shows.superjail.index.html

Special thanks to www.theeconomist.com

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