They weren’t interested in the details of my résumé. James is later taken in leg irons into a room for questioning. “They were scared to death of who you were,” she told me.
They didn’t ask about my job history, my current employment with the Foundation for National Progress, the publisher of , or why someone who writes about criminal justice in California would want to move across the country to work in a prison. The same morning, James tells the sheriff he needs to make a call. “We don’t care if you are doing an exposé on CCA,” a deputy tells him. They have given us trouble in the past.” A state trooper adds, “I don’t care if that guy works in the prison.” James assumes he is referring to me but says nothing. By evening, a ,000 bond is posted and he is released. “After they found out you were a reporter, it was like, ‘Oh my God.
“I should tell you upfront that the job only pays an hour, but the prison is in the middle of a national forest. ” “I like fishing.” “Well, there is plenty of fishing, and people around here like to hunt squirrels. The CEO of the company started out as a CO”—a corrections officer. Not only does Louisiana have the highest incarceration rate in the world—more than 800 prisoners per 100,000 residents—but Winn is the oldest privately operated medium-security prison in the country. The next morning, as I get coffee in the hotel lobby, I see a SORT officer standing outside in a black uniform, flex-cuffs hanging from his belt. We exit through a side door, and as I pull my truck out I see another man I recognize from the prison. They gathered “everything that had your name on it,” Miss Lawson said.
When I call Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana, the HR lady who answers is chipper and has a smoky Southern voice. I know it’s not a lot of money, but they say you can go from a CO to a warden in just seven years! We pick up James at a gas station at the edge of Winnfield and drive out of town. CCA’s corporate office sent people to Winn to open what she described as an “extensive” investigation on me.
As a journalist, it’s nearly impossible to get an unconstrained look inside our penal system. In his office, Assistant Warden Parker asked Bacle what he knew about me. On his way out, Bacle asked the officer at the front gate, “What’s going on with Bauer? National media picked up the story and CCA issued a statement saying my approach “raises serious questions about his journalistic standards.” A couple of guards I worked with reached out to me right away.
I started applying for jobs in private prisons because I wanted to see the inner workings of an industry that holds 131,000 of the nation’s 1.6 million prisoners. He has no problem writing ’em up.” He asked what was wrong, but Parker wouldn’t say. The day after I quit, the Winnfield newspaper reported that I had been working at the prison.
After she identified me, Miss Lawson says, Parker told her to delete the photo and “forget I sent it to you.” She kept it, however, and emailed it to me.
The image was a shot of a laptop screen on which a video of me was playing.