Let the Press In
Society won’t fix a prison system it can’t see.
As commissioner of corrections for the State of Maine, Joseph Ponte allowed a team from PBS Frontline to embed itself in the notorious solitary confinement ward of a maximum-security prison.
The resulting 2014 documentary, six weeks of access distilled into an excruciating hour of television, is hard to watch. Inmates cut themselves with razor blades and smear blood on the walls and tiny windows of their cells. They send eddies of human waste under the steel doors. The racket of wailing misery and catatonic fury is hellish. It is an in-your-face exposé of conditions unworthy of a civilized society.
And that is pretty much what Ponte, who has spent his career trying to reform our primeval prison system, intended. Transparency, Ponte told me recently, is…
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