Join Julie Gautreau for a consideration of American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer, Wednesday, May 22, noon–1:00 in the East Tennessee History Center auditorium at 601 South Gay Street.
In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for $9 an hour to work as an entry-level prison guard at a private prison in Winnfield, Louisiana. An award-winning investigative journalist, he used his real name; there was no meaningful background check. In American Prison, Bauer weaves a deep reckoning of his experiences together with a thoroughly researched history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War.
"American Prison exposes all the moving parts of our industrialized system of incarceration: its roots in slavery, its disproportionate exploitation of minorities and the poor, the complacency of the justice system and the cynicism of the legislative bodies that use it for political leverage. These troubling issues existed even before people figured out how to make money off that system by privatizing it. Bauer's research shows how incarcerated human beings have become chattel for big business and reveals the escalating indifference of corporations to the needs and dignity of workers—in CoreCivic's case, its underpaid, undertrained and overworked guards. American Prison is a study in everything that is wrong with American justice and American business," Gautreau said.
Gautreau is an attorney with the Knox County Public Defenders Community Law Office. In advocating on behalf of clients accused in the full range of criminal charges and penalties, she has spent much of her career visiting jails and prisons and observing what goes on inside. In 2017 she helped establish Face to Face Knox, a local grassroots collective dedicated to restoring in-person family visitation in Knox County jails. She works for prisoners' rights, the restoration of voting rights to convicted felons, and amnesty for undocumented immigrants; she has spoken out on issues of privatization and the monetization of basic human needs behind bars.