I came across a show the other day that grabbed my attention. It comes from the man that almost ate himself to death in the film Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock. The show is titled 30 Days and Morgan puts himself in situations for thirty days that he would normally not find himself in. He does the research, he plans the topic, and then is filmed for the thirty days breaking down how his mind and body react to the living this life style for an entire month. The show is quite good and it allows the audience a chance to see life on the inside.
The episode that stood out to me most was the season finale of the second season. Morgan put himself in jail for thirty days. His girlfriend, of course, did not take this too lightly, but she knew he had to go for the sake of his show and for the sake of what makes Morgan, Morgan. So he was picked up at home and for an entire month was treated like a criminal. He would eat with these guys; he would sleep with these guys, get time in the “yard” with these guys, and even shower and use the restroom right alongside convicts.
At first it was a little scary for Morgan. I mean, going from being able to do whatever you want whenever you want to now being thrown behind bars is a major life change. From the moment he walked into the prison he was told that he would be treated just like all the other inmates. He would get no special treatment, no extra protection, and would not be pulled out of any fights or altercations if he found himself in one. Morgan was on the inside all alone.
The episode was actually quite educational. There is not a lot that you can see in forty-five minutes that takes place over a month’s time, but I felt they did a good job breaking it down and showing the highlights. You learn a lot during that time, however, and get to see how smart prisoners really are. For instance, the bathrooms in these cells are literally just sitting out in the middle for everyone to see. So if you have to use the restroom you are going to be showing off for the rest of the guys around you. But these prisoners have developed a technique to show when they are in fact on the John. When someone goes to the restroom they throw a sheet up to cover the cell. Then the inmate will write and place a note on the outside of the cell to let guards and cell mates know they are using the restroom. It is clever and it works.
Part of the reason for this system, however, is due to the fact that jails are overcrowded. The cells are meant for two inmates, at most, and all of them are housing three at a time. A pair of convicts will get a bunk bed while the other gets a thin mattress and is forced to sleep on the floor. Now, the prison that Morgan visited was not maximum security, where I feel things might be a little different, but the inmates were only allowed very few hours of daylight a week. They were kept inside and not given very much freedom at all. But tensions do run high around any prisons.
So as Morgan goes along he decides to make things even worse for himself. Not only is allowed a handful of visitations while he is in the pen, he decides to put himself in solitary confinement for seventy-two hours. This, from the way he described it, has to be one of the worst forms of punishment that a prisoner can go through. I have always thought that this would be the easy way out. You get your own room, three meals a day served to you right there, time to shower and work out all by yourself, and no worries about getting into arguments or fights with the other inmates. But, when Morgan said that the prisoner is not allowed any books while inside of solitary confinement, I quickly changed my mind. You see, if I was in prison (for whatever reason) and I had nothing to do but wait, I would read. I would read magazines and books and try to learn as much as I could when I was on the inside. I would also begin taking college courses, as they are offered in most prisons, and try to get as far as I could in my personal education as possible. But, if while in “the hole” as they like to call it, you cannot read I would not want to be anywhere near that.
Morgan explains how being locked up by yourself, even for seventy-two hours, can do a lot to a man. He began talking to himself and was just acting silly trying to find ways to pass the time. The human body can only sleep for so many hours a day and you could tell that boredom set in very early with his time in that holding cell. But I have a feeling the whole situation would be an issue. Being in jail, having to follow someone’s rules about when you eat and sleep, and not being able to make phone calls whenever I wanted, having no Internet access, and not being able to watch TV that you want. I would simply go insane after a few hours, let alone a few years. Just try to imagine living a life like that, never mind the fear of being disliked, for years at a time. There are guys that get five, ten, twenty or more years in prison. Is that justice? That depends on their crime. But I am not sure how I would handle a situation like that.
The show, if even only for an hour, put you in a pair of shoes you might not have understood before. I now know what it is like to be a convict behind bars. I know what a prisoner goes through, what kind of food they eat, and what sort of activities they can take advantage of. All things said and done I do not want to be in jail. It looks to be a pretty lonely place. But if it was not for Morgan Spurlock and his show 30 Days I might never know what it truly was like behind bars. This is just one episode in his collection of now two seasons and if this one shows anything for the future of this show, I can see this lasting for a long time. So check out 30 Days if you want to live your life in someone else’s shoes; if only for an hour at a time.