The first of Donald Trump’s programs this convicted felon would DVR is the inevitable cell house chef show, which would feature some of my personal favorites like Brodo Libero Linguine with Cilantro and Walnut Sweepings (a.k.a. Top Ramen drained of its powdery broth-water and sprinkled with “green,” plus a bag of Corn Nuts). Ooh, then there’s Dill-infused Retired Sashimi and Chocolat Petits Fours (canned tuna on toothpicks with yesterday’s pickle slices, and the other half of that 3 Musketeers bar). Many inmates pride themselves on concocting this fine “corridor cuisine,” especially long-termer foodies who use bunk-side braising and contraband meats to keep themselves from making a suicide dash for the electric fence.
Iron Chef: Shackles & Shortbread. Trump could make millions exploiting this untapped goldmine.
And who better? Riding a widening blast radius from publicly acknowledging the existence of a few good Mexicans among the Satanic death horde of sodomites and cartel assassins, Donald Trump has again demonstrated just how disconnected he is from the current national dialogue on criminal justice reform. Explaining to the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board what he’d do about that city’s street crime, he led off with, “You’re not going to stop it by being nice.” Hence The Donald’s strategy of praising lockdown absolutism and shortsightedness despite the successful passage of sentencing reform in 35 states.
Because prison reform appeals to fiscal conservatives as much as social cause lefties, alternatives to “more prison” are on the table everywhere front-line custody personnel collect a paycheck. Across the country, Americans are finding value in redirecting criminal offenders rather than recycling them.
Yet Trump isn’t a lone holdout. Arizona’s corrections budget has increased 40% in the last seven years, currently standing at $1 billion. In Arizona, 589 per every 100,000 residents are behind bars, not because the state is a thug-life battlefront, because it steadfastly clings to the idea that we can incarcerate our way out of crime. Never mind that the concept has been revealed in California to be a game of three card monte. (In fact, California is patient zero in the public safety plague of prison overcrowding.)
It’s possible that Donald Trump exists simply to sound off at press conferences and wherever else he sees opportunities to throw fish to panicky, wall-eyed sea lions. No one should confuse such appearances with an offer of viable crime-busting strategies or prisoner reentry solutions. The cartoon blowhard definitely has no business in presidential politics.
Besides, I think Trump would sooner cash in on alarmism than offer programing that could make a difference: it’s the savvier business call if all you care about is money. Long before depicting those in custody as capable of earning a second chance, he’d bring us prime time contestant shows like Bloodsport in B-block, Prison Chef Showdown, and a new, extreme bodybuilding competition called American History Flex. Why not? Arizona would no doubt oblige in casting the shows. After all, humiliation’s just another tool for warning folks not to (re)offend, right? If any supplier of warm bodies could sell that to taxpayers, it’s Arizona.
The possibilities are endless…
So You Think You Can Apologize?
Wife Swap: Conjugal Visit
Dancing Behind Bars
Bloodsport in B-block would be an obvious sell: yard ape vs. yard ape in a leader board Battle Royale, just like the pudding-filled Van Damme movie franchise. (Also, it’s nothing new.) And Donald Trump could be sure to substantiate his views about Mexicans by having those taco-eaters represent the most savage and rapey of contestants. Every reality-style show needs a villain.
How about Gangbanger ThunderDome? Two cartels enter, one cartel leaves. Or Shotcaller SmackDown? “Los Jefes Terribles” from Sacramento face off with “Las Pistolas of the Southside.” Oh, audiences need comic guilt-relief, you say? Then who better than 5’1″ Nicaraguan and Guatemalan men serving 85% of their Arizona state prison sentences for dragging an ATM behind a Nissan in a gladiator Noche Súper Lucha?
Just think of the design shows. House Beautiful could spin off Big House Beautiful.
Million Dollar Decorators could launch Spider Says You’re Movin’, Fool!
Everyone wants to know how lifers freshen up the place after 17 years, but with creeping vines and Levolor blinds being a big surveillance no-no, how do you pull it off? Well I’m sorry HGTV, that smells like a Trump-style competition to me. Wardens are gonna need to be bribed and a few rules “overlooked,” and while it’s not likely Sawzall will get the go-ahead for product placement, surely a few new place settings, lighting options, and custom shelving could be arranged. Drills and hammers aren’t that dangerous, and anyway they’ll lend that “edgy” feel to the show. The panel of judges could include celebrity jailbirds and prizes could be things like visits from Hannibal Lecter lookalikes (or should we save those for the cooking shows?).
An elderly black dude we fellas knew at Folsom, probably 70 years-old, painted his cell walls and ceiling flat-black. He used a glue gun to affix broken pieces of mirror to everything, and the result was scary, really scary. It was the most psychotic personalization I’d seen up to that point, but no one could walk by without looking in. The badges loved the guy and let him get away with it: he certainly would’ve won that episode.
And there’re so many more options…
The Real Housewives of San Quentin
How I Met Your Mother’s Parole Officer
The Amazing Race Riot
America’s Next Top Jail Lawyer
And as for the LGBT crowd? Sure there’s the offensive and discriminatory potential of maximizing gender-variant awkwardness for profit, but in Trump-world there’s only serving up, not serving, and Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has made this a red meat hot topic. Greenlight! Plus it’s a shoe-in for one of Trump’s beauty contests. How ’bout The Belle of the Cell, or The Swan: Solitary Edition?
Ty Pennington’s Teardrops ‘n Tuckjobs?
The Vishnu of State Issue – anyone?
Of course the show’s producers would need to include a healthy and repetitive dose of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” especially if the beholder is doing 25 to life. Problem is, some of the best looking inmates facing gender issues behind bars are some of the ugliest men I’ve ever seen, and there would be no tiptoeing around others agreeing. So how ’bout a makeover show instead, where “displeasing is teasing” and “ugly is snuggly”?
But as Trump made clear, you don’t cure crime by “being nice”: so let’s watch The Donald guide a transgender inmate through the colorful rainbow of tolerance, acceptance, and beauty tips his way. Greenlight! Oh wait, that isn’t new either, and when something similar was recently attempted it, uh, failed to catch on.
In closing, there’s no excuse for Donald Trump’s babble about how this country should work, or his comments on crime or criminal justice reform. We need his view of corrections like we need more Kardashians.
Some of the loudest laughing I did in prison is described in Where Excuses Go to Die, in a chapter called “I Played Prison Football and Lived to Write This.” Watching a bunch of bad ass convicts argue over, then agree to let a transgender inmate umpire their game was great. This was one official who took no backtalk and she knew exactly what she was doing (I could tell, my dad’s an adult league baseball umpire). In terms of how the public has been trained to view inmates so narrowly, this incident is what I come to call “a prison bitch by another name – when someone at what most of us perceive to be “the bottom” defies our assumptions and surprises everyone.
Give me that prison television show.
We’ll call it, Get Character or Become One.
Tags: America, Arizona, ATM, beauty contest, Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner, California, chef show, corn nuts, Donald Trump, Hannibal Lecter, HGTV, Kardashians, LGBT, lockdown, makeover, Mexicans, NBC, Nissan, overcrowding, prime time, prison, prison bitch, reform, Sawzall, smackdown, Top Ramen, Tribune, Trump, TV, Ty Pennington, Where Excuses Go to Die