One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
DAY 10, NOV. 18 – 9 DAYS UNTIL THE WEDDING
Travel partner and I left Berkeley last night, where we visited his friends for delicious pizza and cake. We’ll see one in a few weeks, when he attends the wedding in Mexico.
As I drove down the flat dark road, my partner slept on the passenger’s side.
Driving at night gets pretty boring. When I saw a giant facility flooded with orange lights on the right, I was a little interested. On getting closer, I saw a little green sign that read “State Prison.”
I spent a significant portion of my degree focused on prisons – Canadian and American, public and private, federal and provincial. I have written about them and even visited one in Victoria, BC. Needless to say, I had to get a closer look.
I took the turnoff towards it, and drove slowly outside the grounds on public roads. Huge fences. Big buildings. Prostest signs reading “Costa Pelosi Boxer.” Whoa.
“Wasco State Prison Visitor Centre,” read the big stone and metal sign, reminiscent of Carleton University’s entrance on Bronson.
When I had spent enough time, I pulled a u-turn and drove away. I stopped to find my notebook so I could write down the name of the place and a quick summary of what I’d seen.
By the time I noticed the lights behind me and tapped on my partner’s shoulder, I was surrounded by four police cars.
“What the hell . . . ” my travel partner said, wiping sleep out of his dozy eyes. I rolled down the window nervously.
“Is there a problem?” asked the sheriff who approached.
“I’m just looking for my notebook.”
“Well, this here’s a state prison,” he said, noting that when a person stops nearby, they take it seriously.
They did let us go with no hassle, but I’ll never again underestimate the importance and seriousness of American prisons.
The American prison system is based in the “bigger is better” attitude.
According to Wikipedia, the capacity of that prison is 2450, but the actual population is at an overcapacity of 245%. You bet they take it seriously.
Some Canadian prisons (provincial ones) have similar overpopulation statistics. The difference is in how they are run; American prisons are privately operated, while Canadian prisons are public.
Funnily, Dan and I recently passed another prison. There was a sign on the highway: “State Prison. Do not stop for hitchhikers.” Ha.