In late 2014 and early 2015, Shane Bauer worked as a prison guard at a private facility in Louisiana owned by Corrections Corporation of America. As Mother Jones editor in chief Clara Jeffery explains, this assignment was not arranged illicitly:
Bauer used his own name and Social Security number, and he noted his employment with the Foundation for National Progress, the publisher of Mother Jones. He did not lie. He spent four months as a guard at a CCA-run Louisiana prison, and then we spent 14 more months reporting and fact-checking.
We took these extraordinary steps because press access to prisons and jails has been vastly curtailed in recent decades, even as inmates have seen their ability to sue prisons – often the only way potential abuses would pop up on the radar of news organizations or advocates – dramatically reduced. There is no other way to know what truly happens inside but to go there.
Jeffery suggests that this kind of reporting has become increasingly rare, also, because of a fear of resulting litigation among media outlets. Bauer’s piece for the July/August issue, which is broken into five chapters, can be bookmarked and read here. The author of course knows a thing or two about being a prisoner, as he was famously one of three Americans detained in Iran.