Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'prisons'

A Rule Made to be Broken

April 24th, 2013 · No Comments

Over on the ol’ microblog, I probably link to a half-dozen intriguing tales per day, most of which I forget about a few moments after posting. But every so often, one of the stories I toss into the flotsam sticks with me for days, even weeks, to the point that I need to sit down […]

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Upside-Down World

January 29th, 2013 · 2 Comments

There is a certain breed of non-fiction story that I call the bridge burner—a tale so damning that it ensures that the writer will never again enjoy access to a vast swath of trusted sources. A prime example would be Jon Lee Anderson’s recent “Slumlord,” in which he paints a vivid portrait of the chaos […]

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Incarceration is the Mother of Invention

November 26th, 2012 · 13 Comments

There are two things to marvel at in the Texas Prison Gangs Dictionary, which comes to us via the good folks over at Public Intelligence. The first is the incredible effort it took to document 168-pages worth of vocabulary that is expressly designed to be as indecipherable as possible. The second is the sheer linguistic […]

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To My Former Captor

November 8th, 2012 · 3 Comments

As I learned so long ago in the mind-blowing Summer of My German Soldier, thousands of Axis prisoners-or-war were housed in Arkansas during World War II. Upon their release at conflict’s end, many of the former captives kept in touch with their American bosses—the men they were forced to pick cotton for, in exchange for […]

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The Art of Getting By

September 21st, 2012 · No Comments

A while back, I explored the athletic means by which American prisoners-of-war coped with confinement in North Korea. That story popped to mind when I recently came across Bill Manbo’s color photographs of life in Japanese-American internment camps, which depict the unfortunate inmates’ efforts to inject some sense of normalcy into their daily lives. Sports […]

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A Return to Normalcy

May 10th, 2012 · No Comments

I dog-eared a whole bunch of pages in Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah, including one featuring a passage about a longtime favorite topic: the psychology of captivity. I am a firm believer in the proposition that extended confinement can warp the mind in terrifying ways, which means I’m also a great admirer of men […]

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Striving for Perfection

January 24th, 2012 · 3 Comments

Given my attraction to tales about how folks cope with nasty twists of fate, I was bowled over to discover this rarest of Korean War artifacts: a program from the 1952 prisoner-of-war Olympics held at Pyoktong, North Korea. In addition to containing numerous photos of the sports contested—such as tug of war, football, and bizarre […]

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Pushing the Revolving Door

September 20th, 2011 · No Comments

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of The Shawshank Redemption, but there’s one scene toward the end that I consider truly memorable. It’s the one in which Morgan Freeman, having been paroled from prison after so many years behind bars, is shown at his job in the free world: bagging groceries at a supermarket. […]

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Soft Time in Finland

May 9th, 2011 · No Comments

Buried in this account of a Rwandan-born, Kansas-based octogenarian who may be a genocidaire is an interesting tidbit regarding Finnish jurisprudence: Mr. Kobagaya did not come to the United States government’s attention until December 2007, when he agreed to testify as a defense witness on behalf of a former neighbor, Francois Bazaramba, in a trial […]

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The Folly of Youth

April 25th, 2011 · 5 Comments

I’m just now getting cranking on a sports-related project—my first crack at writing about the athletic games that adults play since I covered the Nagano Olympics as a mere cub. To get into the right mindset for the challenge, I’ve been looking up the old Sports Illustrated stories that influenced me so deeply as young’un. […]

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Saints and Sinners

December 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

In the midst of researching an upcoming post on the cigarette economy in prisons, I came across this image of juvenile prisoners in Russia. I was struck by the extreme youth of these convicts, and thus motivated to look a bit more deeply into how Russia handles criminals who’ve yet to become adults. As I […]

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A Clear Conscience

December 7th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Whenever my work involves looking at rolls of decades-old microfilm, I inevitably stumble across a handful of tremendous yarns that have been lost to time. Such was the case this past Saturday, as I whiled away the hours scrolling through old copies of The San Diego Union-Tribune. Lazily panning across the pages in search of […]

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Roboscrews

September 29th, 2010 · 5 Comments

One of my current projects is a think piece about robots, specifically those that may soon be charged with carrying out morally weighty duties. That line of inquiry has led me to delve into the history of robot prison guards—or, perhaps more accurately, robots that were briefly purported to be the prison guards of the […]

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Tom Rakewell’s Nightmare Lives

December 2nd, 2009 · 4 Comments

As the once-sparkling metropolis of Dubai flounders, it’s worth revisiting Johann Hari’s eerily prescient, deeply disturbing take on the city-state from earlier this year. There are lots of nasty anecdotes contained therein, but none more depressing than the fact that the United Arab Emirates still imprisons debtors, a practice abandoned in the United States during […]

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The Gulag-Free Archipelago

December 1st, 2009 · 4 Comments

Upon being presented with the map above, the first question that pops to most minds is, “Why is the incarceration rate in the United States so absurdly high?” But given our proclivity for the esoteric, we now find ourselves wondering, “Why is the incarceration rate in Indonesia so darn low?” There is certainly no single, […]

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Inadvertently on the Angels’ Side

September 15th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Our post about Teddy Roosevelt’s health-care reform attracted a fair number of responses, in particular the ending snippet about the Progressive Party’s opposition to privately contracted prison labor. As one commenter pointed out, this opposition wasn’t borne out of genuine concern over the practice’s moral shortcomings, but rather Big Labor griping over the downward pressure […]

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TR and the Nation’s Health

September 10th, 2009 · 8 Comments

As soon as President Obama invoked Theodore Roosevelt’s name last night, we started digging through the archives in search of details about the Bull Moose’s call for health-care reform. It was a tougher get than we expected, as the proposal amounts to little more than a single line in the Progressive Party’s final 1912 platform; […]

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Oil Non-Shock

August 13th, 2009 · 4 Comments

During out all-too-brief sojourn in St. Cloud, Minnesota, we caught wind of James Leroy Iverson’s release from North Dakota’s Missouri River Correctional Facility, after serving 40 years for a pair of 1969 murders. Iverson was, in fact, North Dakota’s longest-serving inmate, and thus a man unaccustomed to 21st-century living. What has shocked him the most […]

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Daily Bread

July 29th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Last night’s long subway ride afforded us an opportunity to start reading Ian Frazier’s Siberia travelogue in the latest New Yorker. So far, it’s every bit as astounding as we’d hoped—the long digression about Siberian butter, in particular, made our inner magazine geek nearly burst with glee. What can we say, we’re absolute suckers for […]

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Shove to Shovel

June 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

We know you’re sick of hearing this excuse, but we’re seriously slammed on the screenplay today; hoping to get a complete rough draft done by end-of-day Friday, so the weekend can be all about Microkhan Jr. So we’re gonna be lazy right this second and just post a great video of yore—the public-access-style promo for […]

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A Yardstick for the Fuzz

May 29th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Several years ago, we read a revealing interview with Wilbert Rideau, former editor of the newspaper at Angola State Prison. He was asked whether harsher sentences, including the death penalty, would deter criminals. Rideau bluntly answered “no”—criminals never think they’re going to get caught. That’s in part because (as noted in the chart above) the […]

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Convict Love Tokens

April 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

In response to yesterday’s post on trench art, one of Microkhan’s treasured Aussie readers turned us on to convict love tokens. These engraved coins were made by English convicts as they awaited deportation to Australia, during the island continent’s 19th-century turn as a massive penal colony. The token to the right was produced by an […]

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The Risks of Prison Wine

March 20th, 2009 · 3 Comments

If you’re looking for proof of mankind’s inveterate need for altered states of consciousness, look no further than pruno. Long created beneath the bunks of prison inmates, and often consisting of such odious ingredients as ketchup and sauerkraut, pruno is notoriously unpalatable, even for the most hardened toughs. According to a participant in a harrowing […]

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Shiv the Destroyer

March 10th, 2009 · No Comments

One of this blog’s core beliefs is that human ingenuity knows no bounds. Today’s Exhibit A: Prison inmates’ MacGyver-like knack for crafting weapons from ordinary objects. This particular set is in the possession of a San Francisco comic-book seller, who got the shivs from a crooked prison guard. Here’s his favorite: This was made as […]

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