There is a history of investigators, reporters, and even regular people (like the volunteers on 60 Days In) going undercover in prison to expose wrongdoing, danger, and bad treatment. Here are a few inspiring stories of intrepid souls who went behind bars to find truth:
“My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard”
by Shane Bauer, Mother Jones
Bauer wanted to see beyond the stage-managed and sanitized prison tour that he thought he’d get as a journalist, so he applied for a job as a guard in a private prison. He ended up in Louisiana’s Winnfield Correctional Center, located in the pine woods of the Kisatchie National Forest. The magazine’s editor-in-chief wrote that this investigation was of vital public interest and worth the risks that Bauer took.
Directed by Frederick Wiseman
Documentary filmmaker Wiseman, winner of an Honorary Oscar, took viewers behind the scenes at a hospital for the criminally insane. In 1966, the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was, literally, a madhouse. It contains searing and unforgettable scenes of bullying and mistreatment. Wiseman reportedly had a verbal agreement with the hospital superintendent to film, which didn’t stop the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from trying to block a showing of the film.
10 Days in a Mad-House
by Nellie Bly
Victorian journalist Nellie Bly (real name: Elizabeth Cochran Seaman) posed as a mentally ill girl for an expose on the horrors of New York City’s Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum in 1887. She later published her story as a book called 10 Days in a Mad-House. Think: rats, gruel, being doused with buckets of ice water, abusive nurses, etc. The book made Bly famous.
(Image: Mark Hill/ A+E Networks)