Photo: Images of violence, overcrowding, and generally unlivable conditions from Martin Correctional Institution captured by secret footage shot by inmate Scott Whitney.
By Ben Robinson
A Florida inmate has filmed footage of life in the Martin Correctional Institution, known by inmates as “Murder Martin.” Under the guards’ noses, inmate Scott Whitney recorded years of film – all the way back from 2015, presenting a rare inside look at modern incarceration.
The footage, titled “Behind Tha Barbed Wire,” was given to the Miami Herald for publishing. Though only footage from 2017 on was smuggled out, there is more than enough film to demonstrate that the US prison system functions as an annihilation zone for those forced behind bars.
Using eyeglasses with fitted cameras and a Bible with a lens hidden in the cover, Whitney captured scenes of neglect and abuse: rampant mold, inmates left on the floor after abusing synthetic drugs, brawls, and a man coughing up blood. Though Whitney was the principal filmmaker, other inmates participated as a team, with one saying that they are “going live behind the barbed wire [and]… risking our lives for this.”
Whitney himself was placed in solitary confinement for releasing this footage on September 19 and remains there to this day.
The state, in an effort to hide the prison’s role in perpetuating oppression against the proletariat and oppressed nations, considers cell phone cameras contraband, and can charge inmates with felonies for possessing them. Ironically, this contraband is most often smuggled in by prison staff and corrections officers, allowing them to make direct profits off of the prisoners on top of their salaries supplied by the state.
In the footage, Whitney says that “money makes the world go round” and that “there’s corruption everywhere in the system.”
While many call for criminal justice reform against corruption, this position misunderstands the role of prisons in class society. Modern incarceration does harbor many corrupt officials, but this corruption does not signify a deviation from its primary purpose. Rather, corruption marks an excess in its genocidal propensity.
As Whitney’s footage clearly shows, bourgeois prisons break down their inmates by imposing these inhumane conditions. Without Communist leadership, anti-people crimes are encouraged behind bars, with prisoners becoming demoralized and despondent as a result. Drug addiction, senseless violence, and punishments like solitary confinement strive to dominate prisoners, exploiting or outright eliminating them, not just as individuals but as members of the proletariat and of the oppressed nations.
Bourgeois prisons must be and will be overthrown as capitalism is smashed. The efforts of Whitney and his crew demonstrate that inmates have and continue to resist this oppression, but it is up to Communists, who will increasingly be sent to these annihilation zones as the state represses the revolutionary movement, to turn prisons into their opposites, to turn them into shining trenches of combat.