I’m a bit obsessed with serial killers, cults, gangs, prison life, anything of that nature. Whether it’s the group mentality of cults, gangs, prisons, or the singularity of being so cold-hearted, cold-blooded, so lacking in empathy that not only do you take human lives, but you explore creative and more evil ways to take those lives.
This fascination started very young for me and I’m not sure why. To say I grew up in a calm house hold would be an outright lie, so maybe it’s the violence typically associated with these groups or individuals that captivated me at a very young age. Maybe I was trying to understand my own environment at the time in some way. I don’t know the exact answer but I’m sure I could theorize for hours.
I’ve watched HBO’s documentary, The Iceman Tapes, (1992) at least twenty times. Richard Kuklinski’s recounting of his life had me enthralled from beginning to end. The way he looks at the interviewer, the way he speaks, the way he tells his stories is nothing short of terrifying.
In college I visited my then boyfriend in Brooklyn. One night while driving around the borough, knowing my fascination with serial killers, he brought me to a location where the Son of Sam (David Berkowitz) had murdered a woman in a car ten feet from where we were parked. I felt haunted, terrified, excited, and sad. I was grateful for the experience. Label that what you will.
I’m telling you all of this for one reason - my latest obsession has been a show on A&E called 60 Days In. A group of individuals - all law-abiding, never incarcerated, never in trouble, had volunteered to go to jail for 60 days. The reason for the project from the jail’s perspective is to gain insight they would otherwise never gain as to how they can improve their facility, find out how drugs are getting in, and how over-crowding is affecting the mentality of the real prisoners. For the individuals who volunteered, their reasons vary from wanting to go into narcotics enforcement, to improving social work abilities, to a teacher wanting to help his students via first-hand experience, and, among others, a young man who wants to know what his big brother is going through in prison. Obviously I highly recommend the show or I wouldn’t be discussing it here.
From the moment a new episode comes on, I am on the edge of my seat until the very last moment. As I’ve been watching I keep wondering if I could do it. Could I survive in jail or prison? Would I get my ass beat for running my mouth? (This is a very likely scenario.) Would I be the person who tries to help new prisoners settle in and be as comfortable as possible? Would I turn to drugs to get through it or perhaps religion? I don’t know, but I want to. If I had the opportunity to participate in a project like this, I would jump at it. To be able to test myself in this type of scenario would be a life experience that may provide insight into who I truly am at the core while under an extreme amount of pressure.
Could you do it? Could you spend 60 days in jail? How do you think you would handle it? Have you spent time in jail? How did you get through it?
Or, does an experience like this dive deep enough to show who you really are in general? I can assure you this doesn’t mean I want to go out to commit a crime to find out. Make no mistake these folks know they are getting out after two months so I imagine that has to have some sort of impact on their "true" experience.
But here’s the kicker, if they do anything to break the rules or break the law while in jail, they will be formally charged and subject to any consequences a prisoner would be. To do otherwise would clue in the other prisoners that these volunteers are not real prisoners. They would immediately be viewed as snitches and we’re all aware of what happens to snitches in prison. How up-to-date are you on handling good ol' peer-pressure skills?
Full episodes of 60 Days In are available on the A&E web site or On Demand for Time Warner Cable subscribers. The new season starts January 3rd!