LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: In the United States there are more than two million citizens locked up behind razor wire and prison bars.
MARK MAUER: We lock up our citizens at far greater rates than any other industrialized nation or any other kind of nation in the world.SEVERSON: Mark Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project. He says that when it comes to lock ups, Louisiana is easily the toughest state in the nation.
MAUER: Louisiana has been at the top of the pack and just incarcerating people at rates that are just unimaginable any place else in the world.
SEVERSON: Richard Crane is the former chief counsel to the Louisiana Corrections Department. He says there was a push nationwide in the early 1980s to crack down on crime, and Louisiana took it seriously.
When I went to prison, in 1987, Motorola manufactured the large, gray cellphone that I used. People referred to it as “the brick.” It had the capacity to send or receive phone calls, but there wasn’t any text messaging back then.
I also had a pager, but it could only transmit digits, as I recall. I had a personal computer manufactured by IBM with a DOS operating system that I didn’t really understand and 40 megabytes of memory. I was told that was a big deal. I linked the computer to an Epson dot-matrix printer, and I remember the perforated paper fed through on a track system that easily derailed. It was a hassle.
Technology has changed considerably during the 25 years that I served. I read extensively during my term of incarceration, but reading about technology felt a bit like reading about typing. Regardless of how much I read, I wouldn’t grasp the power of technology until I started using it. Forget the power, I don’t even understand the language of technology. For example, I never understood what people meant when they spoke of a “browser.” In fact, I just asked my wife to define a browser, and when she described it as a program that would allow me to access the Internet, I gave her a blank stare.
“But I thought the browser was the little text box on top of the screen, where I type in what I’m looking to find on Google.”
“No honey,” she said. “That’s the URL bar.”