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Word of Mouth

Reporter Graeme Wood Responds To Critics

Thomas Hawk via flickr Creative Commons

On September 21st, Shane Bauer wrote an article for Mother Jones, How Can The Atlantic Give Us 5,000 Words on Prison Life Without Interviewing Prisoners? Bauer called out Graeme Wood and his article for The Atlantic, How Gangs Took Over Prisons, for not interviewing any prisoners, as well as for his depiction of solitary confinement conditions. During our interview with Graeme, Virginia asked him to respond to the criticisms. The following is a transcript of his response.

Virginia Prescott: [Shane Bauer] writing in Mother Jones magazine took great exception to your article, especially what he called, “justifying the use of long-term solitary confinement.” What do you say to that?

Graeme Wood: “I think he should read the article a little more carefully. My job was to go there to describe what I saw and what I saw looked pretty torturous to me. The description that I gave of the Pelican Bay SHU [Security Housing Unit] was of a place that had really, the air of dystopian science fiction to it. I described it as the kind of place where humans were placed in suspended animation against their will. That sounds pretty horrifying and I wouldn’t hesitate to call it torture. He found that description, uh, not so bad. Which is funny because he has written well about Pelican Bay from the perspective, not of a journalist, but of an advocate of the human rights of prisoners, and I quite agree with him that the Pelican Bay SHU is an affront to, certainly what I would like in a society I’m part of. But my job was to describe what I saw there and I saw something horrifying and I placed it in the context of this view of prisons as a place that is broken down enough that we have to rely on prison gangs for maintenance of order. The SHU is something that I described as another way we can do that, and I hope it’s not an option that recommends itself very much based on what I’ve described.”

You can listen to Virginia's full interview with Graeme below.

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