A Bleak Peek at Hard Time

They say one of the best ways to teach young people to avoid
getting into trouble with the law is to show them the inside of a
prison cell. At least that’s the thinking behind a new trend
showing up on state prison web sites across the country: virtual
cell block tours.

The Tennessee Department of Corrections web site, for example,
now features a virtual tour of the state’s Deathwatch Ward, where
prisoners spend their last three days before execution, as well as
several other wings of the Riverbend Maximum Security Complex. No
prisoners are present in the photos, but their stark accommodations
are featured in gloomy detail.

‘I think this (virtual tour) serves as a great example to young
people who may be on the verge of traveling down the wrong path,’
Tennessee Correction Commissioner Quenton White told Wired
reporter Julia Scheeres. ‘Everyone should see inside of a
prison at least once. It’s an image you’ll never forget.’ Scheeres’
article contains links and descriptions of virtual prison tours in
several other states, including Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and

Some observers are skeptical that the tours will have any effect
on young people, suggesting it would be better to show adolescents
documentaries about real prison life. One visitor to an online
support group for partners and relatives of inmates said, ‘How can
a sanitized tour of an ’empty’ prison achieve what these films
haven’t? It seems more like a PR job for prisons to me.’
Leif Utne

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Bleak Peek at Hard Time

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