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.