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Do not pass go

Got to jailSo let’s see. This year, I have:

Rescued a loggerhead turtle from the Atlantic Ocean, fired a gun for the first time in my life, flown above Charleston Harbour checking out inbound tall ships, seen an F/A-18 hornet being loaded onto an aircraft carrier, met a 13 year old kid can do the Rubik’s cube in 24 seconds, met Miss Teen South Carolina, witnessed a naturalization ceremony, interview American Idol contestants, seen various Elvis impersonators all dressed up, met a guy who was one of the scientists that worked on the first atom bomb, cycled round Charleston to visit nineteen fiber glass turtles in the quickest time possible, and gone to more high school football games (American football!) than I care to recall. And those are just the incidents that I can remember off the top of my head.

To make this all happen, you have to be in possession of a pro video camera. In my case, the Canon XL1s, which – by the time you’ve added the radio mic and light attachments, and possibly dressed it up in a rain proof jacket whilst lugging a tripod around on your back as well makes people think you know what you’re doing. And in my case – of course I know what I’m doing.

With all this lovely equipment, I’m tasked with the job of making short videos, and one of the more challenging and slightly scary but ultimately rewarding tasks was when I found myself at the Charleston County Jail last week.

First point – The difference between a jail and a prison? The latter is where you get sent once you’ve been convicted. The former is where you’re held whilst awaiting trial – or maybe just kept for a few days for a minor offence. Which is no fun if you get held for 7 days for (say) failing to pay child maintenance, or for trespassing – because you could be locked up with someone who’s been their for eight months awaiting trial for the fact that they might have murdered their neighbour. Or be your local friendly crack cocaine dealer.

So on the local news website here today, there is a massive report of the state of overcrowding of my local jail. It’s got three times the amount of inmates that it was designed to hold, and it’s a scary place.

When I go last week, I’m briefed on a few simple dos and donts: I cannot accept anything from inmates that they might try and ass to you, do not give them anything – even something simple like a pen – which they could use as a weapon. Show them respect, and they will respect you back. And if they don’t want to be on camera, then I must blur them out. (I had to learn how to keyframe in Final Cut for that, cool!)

I learn that they have an excellent expression for repeat offenders – people that keep coming back into jail – Frequent Flyers. I bet they don’t accumulate any discount points though.

The chief in charge tells us that majority (anywhere between 50 and 90 percent) have a drug problem or are in there or drug related problems. And they have a problem with the crack heads. Unlike regular coke, heroine and other drugs – there are substitutes which can help wean an addict off and bring them back to normality safely.

With crack (and more increasingly meths), there hit is such a high that there is nothing else out there like it, and there’s no ‘substitute’ which can help bring people down. So they continually see people who clean themselves up, and totally straight by the time they leave, swear to never do it again, but find that the ultimate hit is too much to resist, and within a few days they’re back in again on a charge.

The staff are friendly. Happy. Almost buoyant. I didn’t expect that. The stereotype of a big burly guards who don’t’t give a shit does not hold here. Maybe that’s just southerners being friendly though. They’re understaffed and severely outnumbered though – and they’re not allowed to be armed either.

So here’s what I made. It’s a flash video, it’s five minutes long, and I think it’s fookin’ excellent. It’s up on the local website here along with articles, and more multimedia, at charleston.net/jail. Go read it if you want, but really I’m just secretly thrilled with this video that I made and wanted to share it with you all.

I’m off to watch the Shawshank Redemption.

4 responses to “Do not pass go”

  1. Tina (G's Mum) says:

    Was it scary in there? Did you feel sorry for them? I thought it was very good, and having never been inside a jail myself found it quite disturbing. Well done anyway. good piece of journalism. Must go and play that 10cc record that mentions ‘The County Jail’

  2. Anthony says:

    Quality vids! I love the Tour de Turtle! The prison one is good too but you must waggle the camera about a bit more while filming talking heads – rubbish camerawork is, like, omg so hot right now.

  3. Jono says:

    I take it you mean Meth rather than Meths? Or are there lots of winos in Charleston nick knocking back the stove fuel?

  4. […] is proud of the new video he’s done for charleston.net: To make this all happen, you have to be in possession of a pro video camera. In my case, the Canon […]

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