Why does life imprisonment content on TikTok sound so familiar?

Others on the platform are posting similar videos. One of them shows how to make a prison potato log, which looks like a giant tamale; Another is the prison cover, which is similar. There are even many cooking videos made by people still in prison: dishes cooked using methods that may or may not be legal in prison, the process recorded on phones probably isn’t. (You can watch clips that show people deep frying in a can, cooking eggs in a plastic bag or barbecue rolls on a metal bed.) The videos tend to be upbeat, and often tinged with nostalgia. Marcy Marie, for example, says cookies were a special treat, made when someone had something to celebrate.

Cooking is only a subset of the TikTok content made by former (and currently) incarcerated people. Some dedicate themselves to facing the camera, seriously educating viewers about life in prison, telling stories and answering questions. Marcy Marie answered many of the answers, including “Is making friends in prison safe?” (Yes), responds to a message on how to iron clothes (soak in water, tap with a hot cup or pot lid, dry under your bed). Others describe their release day, how to celebrate the holidays, or the best form of burpee. The more I explore prison life content on TikTok, the more it seems to reflect all the popular genres of the platform—cooking, life tips, bored dancing, exercise tips—until life on the inside stops being completely different from the life on the outside.

America does not have The lack of accounts of prison life, from century-old memoirs and novels to modern films and television. But in recent decades, most of these images have focused on the more shocking aspects of high-security prisons. Reality shows and documentaries — National Geographic’s “Lockdown,” MSNBC’s “Lockup,” A&E’s “Behind Bars”, and Netflix’s “I Am a Killer” — often or exclusively focus on the worst and most dangerous facilities, highlighting the Cases of escapes, riots and intense conflicts. TV dramas like “Oz” and “Prison Break” have done the same. The prison population in America skyrocketed in the 1980s and 1990s, but until the arrival of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” in 2013, television had no extended depiction of everyday life in a minimally-security prison.

To be sure, this focus on harsh conditions distorts our perception of life in prison. We’re shown hostile, bizarre, and warlike environments (“a different world” with its “own rules,” as stated in the introduction to an episode of “Behind Bars”) filled with violent and dangerous people (“murderers, thieves, and rapists,” in the prequel to an episode of “Lockdown”). These horrific conditions are undoubtedly real, both in documented prisons and in other prisons. But when it comes to the system as a whole, and life within it, it may not be fully represented. The United States is imprisoning people at an astonishingly high rate — more, by most estimates, than any other country on the planet. The majority of the 1.2 million people in our prisons are serving shorter sentences in low-security facilities, often for nonviolent crimes. Their daily experiences, even horrific ones, tend to go unnoticed in the prison drama, which goes well beyond the prison mill—the catchy and expensive video calls; Inedible food The painful hours in solitary confinement – to a whirlpool of murder plots, escape plans and sexual violence.

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