Monday, 30 May 2011

TV Review: Louis Theroux Miami Mega Jail Part 2 - BBC2 9pm


Louis' second foray into Miami's jail system whilst still captivating lacks the grisly allure of last weeks episode as we move from punishment to the prison system's desire to rehabilitate.

The violence and decrepitude of Miami's Main jail is exchanged for the comparative paradise of the TGK prison that houses death row inmates and a special youth boot camp that picks 30 prisoners a month and attempts to turn them into upstanding citizens.

The TGK prison is paradise in so much as guards don't just lump all the prisoners in a big cell and let them shank each other over Snickers bars. They do the decent thing and separate dangerous inmates into "special management" cells i.e. solitary.


One such solitary psychopath is Robert Shaw. A gold toothed Grand Theft Auto cliché with a "shank history" he has been languishing in remand for 4 years on a triple murder charge after it is alleged he was the "triggerman" for a drug-related courthouse retaliation in broad daylight. When asked why he did it he can hardly control his laughter before saying

"I didn't do it"

Whether it is genuine naivety or a calculated interviewing technique Louis comes across like a 5yr old questioning his parents about why he has to go to bed early when interrogating Shaw about the motivation behind his violence. It turns out the reasons are as obvious as you would imagine from an abused, poor, black member of the underclass.

Shaw has a lot of time on his hands being cooped up in his cell for all but two hours a week and it turns out he is making a late bid to better himself. He has written six novels (no doubt in the crime genre) and is hoping to get them published. What's more he aims to learn five new words a day.

"Yesterday I learnt loquacious, kookaburra and bratwurst... I only learnt three 'cos I couldn't pronounce one of em"

Its an unexpectedly bizarre side to a violent criminal and Louis is keen to establish how a reasonably intelligent person turns to a life of crime.

"I've always been a slime ball, because all I ever knew were slime balls. All my mentors were snakes so I felt I had to be a snake otherwise someone else would double-cross me first."

It is hardly surprising that criminals like Shaw get involved in drugs and violence as it is all they have ever known. The silver bullet that eludes criminal justice services around the world is how they rehabilitate lost causes like Shaw.


One answer is to get hold of them early. Miami offers the opportunity to a few young criminals (under the age of 24) that haven't been completely dehumanised by the system into partaking in a four month boot camp in lieu of a prison sentence. This military style training programme aims to

"break you down and build you up"

It is like something out of Full Metal Jacket with instructors in fatigues barking into the faces of recruits and ordering inmates to drop and give them twenty. The idea is to give troubled kids the structure and discipline they have always lacked. It seems extreme but have you to applaud them for trying something different.


Results from the boot camp are mixed. 14yr old Brenton Smith, opts to face a 10 yr stretch for armed robbery rather then continue the programme after failing to get to grips with its intense demands. Yet, another recruit Patrick who spent time on the 6th floor seems the to be transformed into a model citizen.

Louis interviews him and it quickly becomes clear that the is using the same survival instincts that got him through "The Code" to get through the boot camp. He is self aware enough to realise the boot camp histrionics are nothing more then "comedy" and he has to play his role if he wants to see the outside world. Has he really changed or is he just the most adaptable? He admits that he has no sympathy for others but realises "The Game" is only ever going to get him

"100yrs or 6 feet"

It has long been argued that prison is not the answer to crime. Prison leaves criminals institutionalised and is responsible for the continual churn of violent criminals. Building more prisons can never be the answer. Creating a society where everyone has the opportunity to better themselves is the only way to stem the rising tide of criminality that stretches from Miami through to Manchester.

20 comments:

  1. Theroux's latest is recycled from his earlier work as a 'lifer' at the elite state propaganda
    arm BBC.

    It's all part of the cunningly designed programming op to degrade and finish off
    genuine culture.

    Remember, as Louis's program directors well
    know, when an audience views anything,
    no matter what their current orientation
    or belief system, they have unconsciously
    'accepted' what's been put before them.

    AS the Globalist RED China TREASON op
    doesn't even get a single quality mention
    ---enjoy the 'latest' demoralization retreads
    from the Beeb.

    ----------Just keep a goin'

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  2. Hello Mr Anonymous. I recognise your style of writing from a previous comment you left about Louis.

    You obviously have a bone to pick with Louis, the BBC, globalisation and God knows what else.

    Whilst i appreciate your interest in my blog can I just ask why you are so upset about his output. Has he wronged you in some way? Did you even watch the documentary?

    I don't know what part of the world you live in but the BBC is about as neutral as we are going to get these days as I guess they are one of the few stations in the world who is not influenced by the advertising dollar.

    Yes, they are a bit middle class left wing intellectual at times but name me a more balanced TV station that is currently running.

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  3. i hate how you've pragmatically written robert shaw to be less than human, the sarcastic understones throughout just show how you regard people in the prison system. end of the day you have no empathy with any of these people, you dont see the way we grown up, culturally we internalised this way of life. we didnt ask for it, infact most of us regretted it. so now ask yourself, what would you be doing in a cell facing death penalty? writing 6 novels? naaa

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  4. and just for the record.. if my boys kid got executed no doubt i'd be down for the same thing, ask yourself whats important. being loyal to yourself and your people or jus watching shi go by gettin mentally scarred. jus the way it goes girl

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  5. Zed thanks for you comments.

    I think if you take time to read the piece again I did say that it was almost inevitable that someone like Robert Shaw would end up in prison having grown up the way he has.

    I don't agree that it gives him the excuse to go out and be a criminal. Not everyone with a socially disadvantage starts executing people.

    You say you regret what you did. I applaud you for that.

    There was no regret or contrition from Robert Shaw. He didn't say sorry for what he done because he isn't sorry and no doubt would do it again.

    And just for the record if a friend of mine got killed I'd go to the police. That is what they are there for.

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  6. guess were just different types of people both socialised different in different environments. both internalised our own ways of dealing with life but please dont be demeaning to the way we live, its a curse we didnt ask for. gotta respec its jus the way the world we live in works

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  7. Thanks for the interesting and thoughtful review. I would question the closing statement regarding the rising tide of criminality when studies indicate a steady fall in crime across the Western World.

    I know it's not the point of view your review advocated, but I feel frustrated by the view that our societies are deluged by waves of crime when statistics point in the oppositce direction. This leads to the populist and self-destructive criminal justice policies documented in this deeply depressing program.

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  8. Zed, lets face it. One thing I noticed throughout the whole show was young, poor black kids locked up for 90+ years for murder. Who as it happens once in the jail system still have the attitude of if they want something they're going to take it from next guy.

    Personally I think until the community steps up to the plate and as
    'it's not cool in a gang'
    'it's not cool to have a gun'
    'it's not cool to sell or take drugs'
    'it's not cool to have 6 kids with 6 different ladies'

    Then you are asking for it, I mean the biggest thing that make me laugh is 95% of the rappers out there who used to sell drugs, have seen how bad it can be instead of inspiring the kids to be better then that or invest money in the worst areas to help them. They each buy a flashy chain and brag all day about how their "click" is the best and they'll kill anyone who messes with them.

    It's self perpetuating and the sadist thing of all is I can clearly see that Robert Shaw is a clever guy. He knows the name of all the drugs what they do, where he can get them. He make a weapon out of anything, write novels.. he learns new words..

    I mean if these kids could spend the ammount of time they vest into being a 'thug' doing something producive instead of drugs and violence it'd be a good thing.

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  9. Some great comments on here.

    Regarding the growing tide of crime in the Western world, I admit it might sound like a throwaway line but for every stat that says that violent crime is going down there is another report that violent crime is going up.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7402232/Full-scale-of-violent-crime-revealed.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7511192.stm

    Stats can be twisted every which way to suit different agendas.

    I completely agree we should not sensationalise the extent of violent crime but it is still a problem especially in major cities.

    Completely agree that the whole gangster mentally is wrong and has been glamourised in music and film as a desirable lifestyle for impressionable youths.

    Could you argue that selling drugs and getting into voilence is a cop out for certain sections of the community? Easier to fall into that world then to study hard and face the prejudices of labour system that might discriminate against a non white face?

    You could argue either way.

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  10. @Neon Messiah

    Fully agree with you on the selective use of statistics in the crime debate. The Telegraph article you highlighted ("Violent crime has risen by 44 per cent under Labour, an authoritative study discloses today") contrasts interestingly with an Economist article published around the same time ("Violent crime has fallen too. It is now almost half what it was in 1995, and no higher than in 1981 - http://www.economist.com/node/15452867).

    Both articles are legimitmately interpreting the figures and arriving and wildly different conclusions.

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  11. I would just like to point out that Robert Shaw is an innocent man. He may have committed the crimes that he's accused of but equally he may not have; it seems to me, from the way you write that you have already made your mind up that he is guilty, and this seems very unfair of you.

    I also noticed what seemed to me like a racist undertone, which you may or may not have intended, describing Shaw as a psychopath is unfounded (it was not revealed that he had a history of being mentally unstable). Describing an individual as a psychopath gives instant negative implications and it is unfair to put these on the head of a man who may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, or with the wrong crowd. Additionally, when speaking about Shaw's motives, there is a real sense of the prejudice that underlies the whole post. Describing him as a "poor, black member of the underclass" is a telling line. There is no need whatsoever to mention his race, we can see that he's black from the photo, the reinstating of the point implies (though doesn't necessarily show) a deep rooted racism. The word "underclass" (as opposed to overclass) also lends itself to a view of rigid hierarchy, the kind which causes such ongoing violent crime like that which Shaw is accused of.

    I'd like to end but saying that I am not accusing you of racism, or a hidden agenda to your post, I don't know whether or not you have such an agenda, I wanted to show you that at times your post came across in a hateful, hierarchical and damning way, that maybe this wasn't intended and, if so, you could rectify it in future.

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  12. wakefieldg..thanks for your considered comments.

    How can I be a racist I'm listening to Aretha Franklin right now?!! I joke of course.

    I can assure that there is no racist agenda to the piece. I couldn't give a fuck if Robert Shaw is black, white, yellow or green. It is the criminality I have a problem with.

    I don't know what your definition of a pyscopath is but I just googled it. A pyscopath is defined as someone is indulges in anti social behaviour and shows no remorse for that behaviour often gaining pleasure from it.

    I don't know if you had a chance to watch the programme and whilst I am not a practicing barrister (I do have a law degree) Shaw showed absolutely no remorse or contrition and openly laughed at the accusation put to him by Louis. Add that to his proven shank history inside prison and you are not dealing with a person whose mental state I would not consider "normal".

    Now you are quite right, technically the man is innocent until proven guilty. I would say to you if his defense is as rock solid as you imply why has he and his lawyers decided to stay in remand for 4 years instead of going to trial where the facts could speak for themselves? I think you know the answer to that one.

    Lets not mess about here. The inescapable truth from the programme is that most of the inmates inside Miami jail were black. When I refer to Shaw as a member of a black underclass I do believe thats exactly what he is. He no doubt grew up in a deprived area with few opportunities and poor role models (perhaps one where successive US goverments have probably ignored to fund instead concentrating on voting winning white constituencies).

    Despite his bad start in life I don't believe that gives someone the excuse to run around breaking laws and killing people. There are plenty of poor people, be they black or white that lead decent worthwhile lives.

    If the article came across as hateful to you all I would ask you to consider is would you like someone like Robert Shaw (and I am not talking about the colour of his skin) as your next door neighbour?

    Think about that for a moment.

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. i think wakefield pretty much summed up half of my agenda (THANKYOU) taking the long way round.
    but yeah i completely agree and it is as if you run on everything in that documentary as a fact. i.e. murderer/shank history inside prison? again all accusations. can you genuinely not see his light in the darkness. i mean i find it immense how after he even said he checked out the cell you still refer to him having stabbed someone, as if his word is not credible. anyway dont take any of this personal were all bloggers.. well some of us realists at the end of the day. this whole thing is competition and challenging the views of others. but shout outs to springfield!!

    peace neonmessiah

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  15. Thanks for the response NeonMessiah, as I suspected you don't have a racist agenda, and I completely agree with you that being brought up in a deprived area does not make it permissible to turn to crime. The issue that I took with your article was not so much the points that you were proposing as the way they were expressed. It is the case that the majority of inmates in the gaol were black but I don't see why their race is relevant to the point that you are proposing. This leads me conveniently to my next point; in reference to Shaw you made two quite different descriptions. In the original blog you wrote:

    "black member of the underclass"

    And in your comment you wrote:

    "member of a black underclass"

    these are quite different statements, in the latter the implication is that there remains a two tier social system in the US based on race, where black people are treated as second class citizens - while this could very easily be debated, it is a suggestion that I would be more inclined to agree with. The statement from the original blog is harder to agree with because, beside carrying the implication that if you are black, then you are part of the underclass, it carries the idea of a hierarchical society which i mentioned previously. I realise that we are getting somewhat into semantics, but I feel that semantics are very important, as they define how we think and feel about issues like this. I think that the crux of the matter rest partly on the placing of the word black in the sentence (obviously), but mostly on the use of the definite or indefinite article; when you write 'a' underclass it appears as more of a statement of how things are (whether we like them or not), however, when you write 'the' underclass it carries a tacit message that you believe that the underclass are a necessary part of society.

    I look forward to hearing your response - I'm not a very prolific blog commenter, and this blog has sparked a very interesting discussion

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  16. @wakefieldg

    Well I've never had such a respnse to any of the blogs I have written so I 'm glad it has stimulated debate (much of it intelligent)

    You are quite right on the question of semantics and perhaps my writing ability let me down there. I did mean to say

    "member of a black underclass"

    I was just trying to point was out that someone in Shaw's positon was more disposed to a life of crime then a white middle class kid with two supportive parents from Surbiaville.

    Glad it got you commenting and hope that you pop back for more discussion the next time something piques your interest.

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  17. wow. amazing blog & discussion guys. incredibly interesting read.

    the difference of opinion concerning shaw i found most intriguing..

    comments like this for example,

    If the article came across as hateful to you all I would ask you to consider is would you like someone like Robert Shaw (and I am not talking about the colour of his skin) as your next door neighbour?

    my shpeil on this whole idea, is that it's hard for me not to feel bad for these criminals, although i wouldn't really like to share a house with them. i feel like the judicial system is usually too often Literally 'the enemy' and their poverty stricken society the culprit of their ills. it's really amazing to see that level of self destruction within a community.

    the one man towards the end who was bragging "90 years baby. i got caught wit a stick! a AK47 they know what dat is, [they know] what we out here doin baby we choppin heads off!" shocked me as to just how little some of these people care about their own lives as well as others. now put in contrast to the one man who said, "in here i feel relief. out there there's too much pain. mom's a alcoholic, brudda's a nobody, sister wanna prostitute all day, thass how i growed up. so yea in here i feel relief."i almost want to cry. surely their environment and upbringing is no good reason to become such sociopathic criminals, but one must ask, what would you do in their shoes??

    it's tough to watch and not feel remorse for even the wildest of them. because if society was better off, they wouldn't need to join gangs, sell drugs, and have an obligation kill people for rep. all i can say is thank god for my life, and the way it is. i'm not rich by ANY means, but i at least have a straight family and live in a safe community. i'm lucky for that. we all are.

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  18. Thanks for your comment MU24..amazing this blog is still getting comments over a year later so it has touched a nerve with people.

    "There but for the grace of God go I"

    Completely agree we should be thankful for our lot. It's amazing how you can condition a human to be anything you want them to be if you put them in the right (or wrong) environment. Human beings have the potential for amazing things and yet the have the potential for amzing acts of brutality and depravity.

    Off topic a bit but just look at somewhere like Somalia. The place hasn't had a goverment for 20 years and is it a paradise? No, its an absolute shithole with bullets in every wall and rampant poverty and starvation.

    My point here is that the Robert Shaws of this world need strict rules and also opportunities to better themselves as we can see clearly the chaos that results from a society without restrictions.

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  19. it's pretty sad to see pretty smart dudes like Robert end up like that.... good article btw

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  20. Thanks Conrad.

    Yes Robert is smart guy and by the looks of things he knows how to work the system.

    According to September's Miami Herald Shaw pulled the testimony he was going to give against Emmanuel Cadillon, the alledged mastermind behind the triple murder Shaw was accused of being part of.

    This left prosecutors floundering and they were forced to give Cadillon a reduced sentence of 10 years as part of a plea bargaining deal.

    As Shaw is already serving a life sentence for an unrelated attempted murder prosecutors dropped the case against him even though he had previously admitted scouting out the victims movements and was in the car that blocked them off

    No doubt Shaw was keen not to waste his valuable time with court appearances freeing him up to expand his vocabulary and learrn new words like encumbrance, obfuscate and internment.

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