Murder, Mayhem, and Meditation

Murder, Mayhem, and Meditation

2014, Crime  -   66 Comments
Ratings: 8.28/10 from 120 users.

Vice News correspondent Kaj Larsen takes viewers inside California's Salinas Valley State Prison, one of the most notorious maximum security prisons in the nation. Home to several dangerous gangs, it is estimated that 700 assaults will occur this year alone, a number that viewers are told is actually an improvement over years past.

In a unique turn of expectations, it is revealed that Salinas is exploring progressive options to improve the rehabilitation expectations for prisoners. In an alternative approach to managing the gang violence within the prison, there is a new focus being put on practices of meditation and mindfulness.

However, outside of the peaceful atmosphere of the meditation sessions the reality of prison life continues uninterrupted. In a display of the ever-present gang violence that permeates the efforts to improve the mindset and behavior of the prisoners, air medics arrive to retrieve a freshly shanked prisoner.

The distinct power of the prison gangs is described as Larsen asks about the typical first day for a white guy like himself. It is explained that he would be asked for his paperwork by the gang leaders, and segregated into a group based on race. The organization and influence of the gangs is essentially equal to that of the prison administration.

Offering an example of a success story, Larsen speaks to a paroled ex-gang member who explains the "debriefing" process of extracting prisoners from their gangs and setting them on the path to rehabilitation, and his relief to be out of the system and away from prison life.

With the US prison system at maximum capacity the need to release prisoners is greater than ever, and prisons like Salinas are making efforts to reduce the risk to the public. The film addresses the issue of the sustainability of the American prison system – with only 5% of the world's population we are home to 20% of the world's prisoners – and explains that the efforts being made at Salinas are in the interest of rehabilitating violent prisoners for eventual reintroduction into the general community.

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donal trap
7 years ago

the best place to f*** the Spanish a** without getting rape charges, to being in California prison .

7 years ago

Inmates should not be affiliated w/any gang activity (while incarcerated) to be paroled. Yes, we have a long way to go...truly admire what they are doing in this prison. There needs to be another option for those on the outside & in a gang who commit murder. Leaving their neighborhood/community should be the first step.

Lane Jacobson
8 years ago

i enjoy prison documentaries but this one sucked. the guy from vice was just annoying.

8 years ago

Amerika's gulags. Warehousing the poor is big business and there are more laws in a police state all the time, they create them just to nab 'customers'. We're cattle to our corporate overlords, they ruin a country and ship out all the jobs then lock up the desperate broken people left behind. Hurray globali$m, welcome to the modern slave state.

Nice to see them learning mindfulness.

9 years ago

It is so sad to see that Europe and The Netherlands ( witch had the most liberal jail system in the world for a time ) is trying to look more and more to the US prison system as a solution : Rack 'em and Stack 'em seems to be the parole ! And of al places the US is finaly seeing that it doesn't work ! That you make really dangerous people that way if you lock people up as animals .
I would like for the dutch governement to watch this documentary and make them see what the future is for us if they keep doing what they're doing now .

9 years ago

Perhaps if some of these offenders had received help and support during their early years, they might have skipped the gang lifestyle.
I think that's where more money should go, for family support programs, parenting classes, early learning education, community outreach and better equipped schools.
But honestly, the way these violent offenders live at this prison is just crazy. Why are they allowed any social mingling at all? That's when all the violence starts up. I vote to keep them in lock down unless they are attending a rehab program at that moment. I don't care which gang their cell mate is affiliated with, either. Break them up!
The lunatics are running the asylum, imo.

larry walden
9 years ago

Your prison rehab system is a load of bull. It will never work with existing policies. Solutions: (1) take all the murderers rapists and gang leaders and immediately hang them in the prison yards. (2) Each month sponsor a show down fight outside in the main yard with all prisoners present. Volunteer gang members are given a shank and allowed to kill and maim each other until the last man standing. Bodies will be left to rot for three days to remind other prisoners of the consequences. Promptly shoot the last man standing as his reward. (3) Any inmate caught with a weapon to be promptly executed. (4) Bring back the chain gang system and force the prisoners to break rock for road works. (5) Replace US currency with prison script. (6) Fire all the do-gooder brain dead wardens and so-called social experts and promote guards with good records and common sense to administrative posts. (7th) Know that your Buddha meditations are a load of crap and never accomplished anything. AND LAST, DO NOT FORGET ALL THE INNOCENT PEOPLE WITH BROKEN LIVES THESE INMATES HAVE VICTIMIZED
Sounds Cruel? No. Nothing like the harm done to others by these Animals.

9 years ago

Great documentary! All the best to Juan and his family. I sincerely hope his second chance serves him well :)

~Oliver B Koslik Esq
9 years ago

I wrote a TED article on "Internet in jails" before. Though it was deleted when they re-vamped their site.

Basically I researched the costs of installing computers in each cell. Plus yearly maintenance and internet subscription. It was relatively cheap.

Each prison toilet cast ~25,000$ to buy install and maintain.
It was a figure I was basing my thesis on... the computer option was like 40% cheaper.

Initial funding could come from companies that are looking to hire "online widget workers" (basic operations like data entry etc).
So they would set it up, earn potentially HUGE profit, but as well contribute MASSIVELY to society... its a win win lock down!

Because of the fact that through internet and remote / cloud education. Any individual can "self-learn" what they are interested in. For hours and hours and hours everyday!

Prision, in the future is quite viably a college or university.
And voila you have your "rehabilitory scenario" playing out at full steam.

Cuz what prisoner doesn't want internet privileges?


The Observer
9 years ago

When America starts their next war, empty all the prisoners into the army, use them as cannon fodder, then they serve a useful purpose, and cost the taxpayer nothing.

9 years ago

...way...way...way 2 vanilla...

9 years ago

Great doc VICE! This was well done and did give a good representation of life at this prison. I hope the best for the people locked up there and hope they get through their time quickly.

9 years ago

Can be possible to punish the body, can it be possible to punish the mind?

9 years ago

seems to me to be akin to putting a band aid on a gun shot wound

9 years ago

I could not make through this liberal propaganda.
They are violent criminals and deserve nothing but contempt.

9 years ago

Start by removing all drug addicts - then we can talk about reforming the murderers. There will be a lot more room, too.