Of Civil Disobedience, Shakespeare, Prison Porn and Stuff


With the Wall Street occupation, among others, continuing, strengthening, driving AM talk hosts crazy, I am very much struck by this little known piece of Antebellum history – one of the worst incidents of class conflict in the first half of the Nineteenth Century occurred in New York on May 10, 1849.  Two rival mobs met outside the new Astor Place Opera House.  When the State Militia finally ended it hours later at least 31 were dead, scores wounded.

The issue then?  Nothing less than the proper interpretation of Macbeth – the upper classes supported the restrained style of British actor Charles McCready, the working classes the American, Edwin Forrest. That’s a pretty high-brow riot . . .  and impossible to envision happening now – “Dick Sargent was the real Darrin Stevens!”
“No, it was Dick York!”

While a valid argument can be made for each, hardly the stuff of riots.  Now, who the best Batman was . . . .

Pornography in Connecticut prisons has been big news the last few weeks, even being picked up by the British papers.  The crux: porn is being abolished in Connecticut prisons, a full ban to be in effect in a year – to give time for magazine subscriptions to run out.  The reason cited is to created a better work environment for female correction officers and staff.  The female head of one of the unions stated unequivocally (and in neck-cringing English) that porn is the root of all evil in the prison system and COs are in constant danger of running across horrifically explicit images they presumably can’t run across flipping through HBO and Max on any given late evening.

Also banned in CT prisons – for obvious reasons.

Okay, fine, no one should be subjected to explicit porn if they don’t want to and all that, the problem here is that there really is pretty much no porn in CT prisons – at least there wasn’t in April 2010 and I seriously doubt they imported bales of it after I was so unceremoniously thrown out of Willard C.I..  What there most certainly is, however, is a union under fire for racking up enormous overtime and fraudulently padding retirement pensions, i.e., pensions are based on last three years earnings; COs approaching the magic number work obscene (use of word here purely intentional) amounts of overtime sleeping on couch in the Officer’s Mess or counselors’ offices.

It’s a non-issue in reality, but it gets the DOC out there in the press as being ever vigilant, and ever put upon by nasty, horrible lecherous, Aqualung-like inmates.  The truth of it is very mundane – what porn there is has been smuggled in for the most part, through guards and staff; anything approaching nudity is routinely snatched off walls and from ‘under bunks’ and the insides of lockers and either ripped up or confiscated by male CO’s who have every intention of investigating further in their off time.

By “approaching nudity” here I am referring to photo spreads in such explicit, smut ridden publications as Maxim. For the uninitiated, the female prison porn equivalent would be to banish Cosmopolitan. Best example of the DOC’s definition of offensive images: just before my Federally assisted eviction from Willard, the COs did a porn sweep just before a visit by the warden (a woman, as was the assistant warden).  A gang of them teamed up to rip down the highly offensive, almost life-sized poster under a bunk – of that well known porn star, Jennifer Aniston.

Sorry to offend

The flip side of this, also highlighted in the, many, articles is the fact that several inmates have filed Federal lawsuits claiming violations of the First Amendment and requesting access to alternative porn (better be careful of what they wish for, if taken literally) in the absence of magazines.  Well, shame on them – it is extraordinarily hard to get books of any kind into CT prisons. Be they from Amazon.com or direct from a publisher, books are stockpiled in mail rooms and held until some CO can ‘vet’ them.  Books can, and are, held for weeks before either being delivered or disappearing (one would normally think they are stolen, but, well supply your own joke here).

This, of course garners no law suit.  Lose magazines, though, and dial up Justice Roberts.  (“They can take our Proust, and they can take our Camus, but they can never take our MAXIM!”). By the way, porn has been banned in Federal prison for years (as have R-rated movies) but books and magazines – including Maxim and Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition – are delivered promptly.

Oh, well, this argument, such as it is – weak and already abandoned by the ACLU – will be decided in the courts, mostly on paper, inelegantly and probably in relative silence as the DOC has already made their “look at us protecting the world and ourselves from inmates armed with porn” point.  It will end in a whimper, three, four, five years from now.

We’ve certainly come a long way since opposing Shakespeare fractions fought it out in the streets.

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