Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Reveal: Four Months As A Prison Guard

Anna Vignet
Journalist Shane Bauer gets a job as a guard at a private prison to research a story he's doing for Mother Jones magazine. Through Shane, we get an unprecedented look inside the billion-dollar private prison industry.

This week, Reveal revisits an hour with Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer inside a private prison on lockdown. We take an unfiltered look at America's private corrections industry and follow up on some big news.

Welcome to the hellhole Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer gets a job as a guard at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana.

The prison is run by the private company Corrections Corporation of America, and over four months, he investigates how the prison is run. He buys a pen that doubles as an audio recorder and a watch that takes video. Shane makes it through training and ends up guarding suicide watch on day one of the job, documenting everything he can.


Shane witnesses stabbings, beatings and prisoners threatening to riot inside a private prison on lockdown. The conditions inside Winn Correctional Center, and his duties there as a guard, are getting the better of him.

Man down

The prison life is relentless: Shane meets a prisoner who contracted gangrene at Winn and lost his legs and fingers as a result. However, an unexpected offer and a twist of fate change Shane's status as a guard.

Now what?

After Shane left his job, Corrections Corporation of America decided it wasn’t going to renew its contract at Winn – another private company, LaSalle Corrections, took over.

The U.S. Justice Department also recently decided to phase out its contracts with private companies at 13 federal prisons, including ones run by CCA.

State prisons such as Winn aren’t affected by that decision. But many of the problems Shane uncovered there also were found at those federal prisons. Could this decision eventually trickle down to the state level? In this new segment, we call Shane to hear what he thinks.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.

For more, check out our website and subscribe to our podcast.