Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

10 Best Songs About Prison

"I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," "Dance the Night Away:" these are three of the most well-worn lyrical themes found in pop songs. But dig a little deeper into the 20th and 21st century songbook, and you’ll discover a large and varied repertoire of music directly inspired by the prison experience. In fact, there are so many examples in blues, country, rock, and hip hop of songs about prison, that you could argue getting locked up is as common a subject for a song lyric as boy meets girl. Here are 10 classic songs, most of them widely known, that support this point.

  1. "Folsom Prison Blues (Live)" performed by Johnny Cash

    This is the opening number from the 1968 live album At Folsom Prison, recorded by the late great Johnny Cash before a loud, rowdy, and — as you can hear right after Cash introduces himself — thoroughly appreciative audience. "Prisoners are the greatest audience that an entertainer can perform for," writes Cash in the album’s liner notes. "They’re not ashamed to respond and show their appreciation."

  2. "Mama Tried" performed by Merle Haggard

    Merle Haggard’s classic "Mama Tried" simply and concisely conveys the feelings of its guilt-ridden narrator, a young "one and only rebel child," who ignores his mother’s pleas to straighten up and behave and ends up in prison serving "life without parole." The respect the young imprisoned man now affords his mother comes across in Haggard’s lyrics and delivery, and offers a glimpse of redemption in the bleakest of circumstances.

  3. "Jailbreak" performed by Thin Lizzy

    Probably the cheeriest song on this list, Thin Lizzy’s "Jailbreak" is more of a metal club banger than a realistic account of escaping from an actual brick-and-mortar prison. It’s quite possible Thin Lizzy lead singer Phil Lynott just liked the threat and aggression implicit in the word "jailbreak" and crafted a lyric around it. "Jailbreak," along with "The Boys Are Back In Town," made Thin Lizzy international superstars, and both songs enjoy eternal rotation on American FM radio.

  4. "Chain Gang" performed by Sam Cooke

    Singer Sam Cooke composed, arranged, and produced nearly all of his recorded output. He’s also responsible for some of the most powerfully socially conscious songs of the 20th century, including the well-known "A Change Is Gonna Come." "Chain Gang," released in 1960, was inspired by a chance meeting with a chained group of prisoners working on a highway Cooke was traveling during a tour. The background chant is quite consciously reminiscent of the rhythm and cadences heard on field recordings of actual prisoners, including "Po’ Lazarus," included on this list.

  5. "The Mercy Seat" performed by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

    Recorded while lead singer Nick Cave was in the throes of heroin addiction, the first-person lyrics of "The Mercy Seat" describe the conviction and impending electrocution of an unrepentant prisoner who may or may not be innocent of his crimes. Cave and the Bad Seeds have performed this song in a variety of ways, sometimes slowing down the tempo and stripping down the number of accompanying instruments. The relentless panicked poetry of the lyrics and simple melody of the refrain make this song a contemporary example of prison folk blues.

  6. "Murder Was The Case" performed by Snoop Dogg

    Recorded in 1994 for the soundtrack to the short film of the same name, "Murder Was The Case" dropped at a time when murder, and the possibility of gang violence, was either subtly or explicitly referenced in the lyrics of both East and West Coast rappers. On this track, Snoop Dogg is resurrected from a certain death by shooting thanks to a deal he makes with the devil who, as the devil is wont to do, sends him to prison once their deal is broken.

  7. "Po Lazarus" performed by James Carter and prisoners

    Beginning back in the 1930s, folklorist and historian Alan Lomax and his father, John, visited several prisons in the South to record and archive the inmates’ work songs. This 1959 recording by Lomax of a group of Mississippi prisoners singing the work song "Po’ Lazarus" appears on the Grammy award-winning film soundtrack O Brother Where Art Thou? James Carter, the lead singer heard on "Po’ Lazarus," was tracked down by the producers of the soundtrack, paid $20,000, and credited for his decades-old performance.

  8. "Women’s Prison" performed by Loretta Lynn

    Country singer and songwriter Loretta Lynn has never been one to pull punches when it came to the lyrics of her songs. Over the course of her career, she’s written and sung songs about spousal abuse, infidelity, and the pill, much to the horror of conservative country radio, and on more than one occasion had her music banned from the airwaves. "Women’s Prison," another great addition to Lynn’s repertoire of blue-collar women’s songs, comes from her comeback album Van Lear Rose, produced by young rock singer and guitarist Jack White.

  9. "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" performed by Public Enemy

    "I got a letter from the government / the other day / opened it and read it / it said they were suckers!" So begins Public Enemy’s "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," featuring a harrowing lyric by MC Chuck D describing his arrest and imprisonment for dodging the draft and an ensuing prison riot and breakout. It’s a fantasy of course, but one inspired by the reality of America’s out-of-control military and prison industry.

  10. "Back On The Chain Gang" performed by The Pretenders

    While the lyrics to "Back On The Chain Gang" aren’t explicitly about prison, the background chant in the refrain, directly referencing Sam Cooke’s "Chain Gang," and lines describing separation of two friends or lovers by "the powers that be," speak to a poetic "prison" from which there may be no escape. This song was written as an elegy for The Pretenders’ founding guitarist James Honeyman-Scott who died of an overdose early in their career. Perhaps referring to the troubled Honeyman-Scott, lead singer and songwriter Chrissie Hynde vows that those powers will "fall to ruin one day / for making us part."

Top 10 Films Based on Real-Life Crimes

Hollywood does a good job of coming up with compelling and realistic movie plots, but they just don’t compare to the cinematic depictions of real-life crimes. Some of the best crime movies are inspired by real criminal acts and events that have shaped society and changed the way we view and punish crimes. Here are the top 10 films based on real-life crimes.

  1. Zodiac (2007)

    Zodiac is a mystery-thriller that chronicles the ongoing hunt for the infamous Zodiac serial killer, who murdered at least seven people in the San Francisco bay area during the late ’60s and ’70s. Jake Gyllenhaal plays San Francisco Chronicle¬†decode the killer’s encrypted letters political cartoonist-turned-crime author, Robert Graysmith, who tried to that were sent to the police and newspaper. Despite years of investigation, the Zodiac murders still remain unsolved.

  2. Public Enemies (2009)

    Public Enemies chronicles the story of notorious bank robber John Dillinger and his gang of outlaws as they escape from prison and outrun the FBI. Johnny Depp gave a critically acclaimed performance as Dillinger, and Christian Bale plays Melvin Purvis, the real-life FBI agent who led the manhunt that eventually ended the outlaws’ crime spree.

  3. Summer of Sam (1999)

    Spike Lee’s crime drama Summer of Sam is based on the real-life Son of Sam serial murders that took place in New York City during the summer of 1977. The film follows one tight-knit Italian-American neighborhood that has grown fearful for their lives and begins to suspect one another of being the killer.

  4. Goodfellas (1990)

    The hit film, Goodfellas, is based on the real-life story of Mafioso Henry Hill and his rise from a small-time gangster to a convicted criminal, whose testimony helped bring down some of New York’s most notorious mobsters. Hill, played by Ray Liotta, enters the Witness Protection Program to protect himself and his family’s life, and later becomes an FBI informant.

  5. American Gangster (2007)

    American Gangster tells the true story of Harlem drug kingpin, Frank Lucas, who was famous for smuggling heroin into the U.S. by way of American soldiers’ coffins from the Vietnam War. Denzel Washington plays the innovative drug dealer who is investigated and arrested by detective Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe.

  6. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

    Dog Day Afternoon is based on the real robbery of a Brooklyn bank in 1972. The film was inspired by the events recorded in P.F. Kluge’s article “The Boys in the Bank.” Al Pacino plays the first-time bank robber, Sonny Wortzik, who hopes to steal enough money to help his lover undergo a sex change operation, but what was supposed to be a quick transaction turns into a day-long siege that ends in tragedy.

  7. Donnie Brasco (1997)

    Crime drama Donnie Brasco tells the story of undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone and his work to uncover the crimes of a large New York mafia family. Pistone, played by Johnny Depp, assumes the new name of Donnie Brasco, a street burglar, and joins the Bonnano family. Brasco’s undercover work helped bring down 120 mobsters who received life sentences.

  8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

    Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can is an award-winning comedy-drama about real-life conman Frank Abagnale Jr., played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his journey to becoming one of the most innovative and skilled criminals in U.S. history. At only 19 years old, Abagnale made millions by posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a parish prosecutor.

  9. Monster (2003)

    Monster is a crime drama based on the life of Aileen Wuornos, a real prostitute-turned-serial killer who was executed for murdering six men in Florida. Wuornos’ first victim was killed in self-defense, but she continues to rob and murder her clients to support her and her lover, Selby Wall, played by Christina Ricci. Actress Charlize Theron won an Academy Award for her critically acclaimed portrayal of Wuornos in the film.

  10. Blow (2001)

    Blow tells the real-life story of American cocaine smuggler George Jung, played by Johnny Depp, and his journey to becoming one of the world’s most prolific drug dealers. But his success and wealth come back to haunt him when he’s betrayed by his wife, Mirtha, who plants a stash of cocaine in his car which lands him a 60-year prison sentence.

Top 10 Books Written Behind Bars

Since the time of Saint Paul, great writing has come to us from authors in prison. Such works include thoughtful memoirs describing the author’s spiritual journey toward redemption. Other works are unapologetic, even decadent, provoking never-ending debate as to their literary value. Here are 10 examples of inspiring, influential, and provocative books that were written behind bars.

  1. Cell 2455, Death Row: A Condemned Man’s Own Story by Caryl Chessman

    In 1948, Caryl Chessman received the death penalty for robbery, kidnapping, and rape. While serving his time in San Quentin State Prison, Chessman wrote a memoir, Cell 2455, as well as other books about crime and the prison system. Although relatively unknown today, Chessman’s case drew attention and support from around the world. He even appeared on the cover of the March 21, 1960, issue of Time Magazine. Chessman was executed after 12 years on death row and eight stays of execution.

  2. In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison by Jack Abbott

    Jack Abbott’s letters to author Norman Mailer describing life in prison were published in 1981 as In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison. Mailer recognized Abbott’s talent and successfully campaigned he be released on parole after having served several years for forgery, stabbing another inmate to death, and robbing a bank after briefly escaping from prison. Tragically, just a few weeks after his release, Abbott stabbed a man to death. He returned to prison, where he eventually ended his life by suicide.

  3. Conversations With Myself by Nelson Mandela

    Former president of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela was imprisoned from 1964 to 1990 for his role in the apartheid resistance movement. Conversations With Myself includes several of Mandela’s writings done while in prison. Critics and historians have noted the collection provides a fascinating emotional subtext to South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. "Until I was jailed," writes Mandela. "I never fully appreciated the capacity of memory."

  4. Couldn’t Keep It to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution (Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters) compiled by Wally Lamb

    New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb has taught writing to women in prison for many years. Couldn’t Keep It to Myself is a collection of essays by women he’s taught, each now empowered by their ability to convey their life stories in writing. Bonnie Foreshaw, who contributed to the collections, says, "What I hope is that people reading this book will bear in mind that we are human beings first, inmates second."

  5. Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars by Kenneth Hartman

    Kenneth Hartman is a contributing writer to The Huffington Post and a published author. Since 1990, he’s served a life sentence with no possibility of parole for killing a man in a drunken fistfight. He was only 19 at the time of his conviction. In his memoir, Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars, Hartman unflinchingly describes his literary and spiritual journey without a trace of self-pity. A recording of Hartman reading the first chapter of Mother California is available on his website.

  6. Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet

    Jean Genet wrote what would become his first published novel, Our Lady of the Flowers, while in Santé Prison, initially on brown paper provided to prisoners to create paper bags. The novel’s collage-like structure, explicit descriptions of homosexuality, and mixture of poetry and slang was hugely influential on the writing of the American Beats. Genet biographer Edmund White wrote of Our Lady of the Flowers, "If anyone in prison had bothered actually to read what he was writing, Genet would have been in trouble, since his work made clear he had no intention of reforming, getting a job and renouncing crime."

  7. Soul On Ice by Eldridge Cleaver

    While serving a sentence for marijuana possession at Soledad Correctional Training Facility and another later sentence at San Quentin State Prison for attempted murder, Eldridge Cleaver read and found himself inspired by the writings of Karl Marx, Thomas Paine, and Malcolm X to name just a few. His still-controversial 1968 collection of essays Soul on Ice, mostly written while he was in prison, had a profound influence on the black power movement and established his status as one of the most influential American political activists of the ’60s and ’70s. The beginning of The Black Panthers’ complex history and Cleaver’s own political and spiritual development begins in this brutal, intelligently written memoir.

  8. Letters and Papers from Prison: A Biography by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    German Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer participated in the German resistance movement against Nazism. He was imprisoned and ultimately hung for his involvement in plans to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer’s posthumously published Letters and Papers from Prison: A Biography, appearing for the first time in English translation in 1953, influenced both Christian and secular thinkers, activists, and leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

  9. By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives by Judith Tannenbaum

    Writer Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson met at San Quentin State Prison where Jackson was serving a sentence for murder. By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives is a collaborative memoir, born out of their connection as teacher and pupil and as fellow poets. The book alternates chapter by chapter between Tannenbaum and Jackson to tell the life stories of two very different people, each with "one foot in darkness, the other in light."

  10. Death Around the Corner by C-Murder

    Written during his electronically monitored house arrest, C-Murder’s Death Around the Corner is a fictional account of growing up young, black, and poor in New Orleans’ Calliope projects. C-Murder, real name Corey Miller, drew on his own life experience to tell the story of Daquan, a young man whose father is jailed for a murder Daquan witnesses as a child. There’s a moral center to the book that elevates the matter-of-fact descriptions of drug abuse, sex, and violence to that of great, autobiographical literature. A chapter describing Daquan’s visit to see his imprisoned father is one of the book’s many surprisingly poignant and effective moments. Miller’s life sentence for murder was recently upheld, and he is currently serving his sentence in Louisiana State Penitentiary.

10 Literary Lawyers We Wish Were Real

Readers love their characters, and few are as diverse a group as the written lawyer. As some of the most diverse characters in the fictional tradition, the barrister can be a source of good or evil. And who doesn’t love a newcomer with a fresh edge? Major and minor, funny and classic, lawyers occupy a unique space in the charactered universe that requires loose definition to be called an archetype. From legal intrigue to a stalwart moral compass, it’s no wonder that we found 10 literary lawyers that we wish were real.

  1. Atticus Finch

    It’s almost too easy. The perfect character in a perfect book, reading protagonist Atticus Finch makes turning the pages of Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, a simple joy. Inspiring readers of all kinds to the legal profession, Atticus’ soft-spoken code of honor and his commitment to justice and client advocacy highlight the noblest attributes of one of civilization’s oldest professions.

    Why He Should Be Real: There’s truth in this: if Atticus Finch were a real working lawyer, the world would be a better place. And most likely he’d be Gregory Peck.

  2. Rudy Baylor

    The protagonist in John Grisham’s best-selling novel The Rainmaker, Rudy Baylor is a young, hungry lawyer that stumbles into his big break. He uncovers an insurance scheme to deny client claims, nails the company, and his plantiffs win more than $50 million dollars. Due to other complications in a romantic/legal subplot, Baylor becomes disillusioned with the law and vows to become a teacher in the end.

    Why He Should Be Real: Baylor proves that courage, smarts, and gumption can win you big court cases against the bad guys. Also, he’d be Matt Damon, and he’d probably be one hell of a teacher.

  3. Perry Mason

    Written by former California lawyer Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason’s character was developed and featured in more than 80 books and short stories. Mason is a great (if not a bit personally mysterious) lawyer who acts mostly ethically, and basically uses his lawyering business to play private detective. Then the second half of every book is a drawn-out, well penned, often revealing courtroom scene. Gardner remains one of the best-selling authors of all time.

    Why He Should Be Real: For sheer volume alone, Perry Mason should be a real person. He’d probably be a pundit on lots of legal TV shows, and would have bazillions of real-world examples for why he’s right about everything. For starters, he could have Nancy Grace’s spot in the public eye. And, he’d be Raymond Burr.

  4. Portia as Balthazar

    In the poetic Shakespearean play The Merchant of Venice, Portia enters the trial disguised as the young lawyer Balthazar, and begs that Shylock show mercy on the merchant. She appeals to a higher law, and is praised by Shylock and compared to the Biblical judge, Daniel. She systematically takes Shylock and the Merchant through their case, each time begging for Shylock’s mercy — even though the law is on his side.

    Why She Should Be Real: Because it would be hilarious to watch any Shakespearean character come to life in 2012. Would she tweet at Shylock under a masculine handle? Would the British court rule that Shylock could indeed demand a pound of flesh — no more, no less — under penalty of death? Couldn’t the merchant just pay him back in iTunes? Also, she’d be Lynn Collins.

  5. Joel Litvinoff

    In Zoe Heller’s novel The Believers, Joel Litvinoff is a bit mythologized; he lies unconscious for almost the whole of the book. Yet, he is a firecracker lawyer, often taking provocative and political cases.

    Why He Should Be Real: Maybe he already is. The New York Times described Litvinoff as a "William Kunstler" type, the controversial lawyer who represented the Chicago Seven and served on the board of the ACLU.

  6. Horace Rumpole

    When a barrister writes a barrister, everything goes right. Originally a character in his Play for Today, British lawyer and writer John Mortimer created Horace Rumpole in his Rumpole of the Bailey TV series, but the spin-off novels also written by Mortimer have remained popular among readers around the world.

    Why He Should Be Real: He takes a lot of pro bono cases, and gives his friends historical and literary nicknames. A peculiar character and surely a lover of the lost cause, Rumpole would be a funny, if not Quixotic figure in the modern legal system. He would look exactly like Leo McKern.

  7. The Man of Law

    In Chaucer’s well-loved classic, The Canterbury Tales, The Man of Law (also known as The Sergeant of Law) passionately and snobbishly defends the princess Custance in a rhetoric oration full of hot air.

    Why He Should Be Real: Again, for the humor. Who doesn’t want to run up in court against someone who only speaks in overtly flowery Middle English?

  8. Wallace Stevens

    One of the only examples of artistic brilliance that has onset late in life, Wallace Stevens was a lawyer in New York before he was a poet. He focused on universal and philosophical meditations, as well as how to comprehend the world in its state of infinite flux.

    Why He Should Be Real: He is, but he’s also a lawyer turned poet — almost unreal in today’s get-up-and-go business world. This is romantic and sweet, and suggests that Stevens was of an ethereal spirit.

  9. Henry Drummond

    The agnostic lawyer of the infamous play Inherit the Wind, both the lawyer characters of Matthew Harrison Brady and Drummond truly belong on this list. But Drummond gets extra points for answering to a higher calling, and valuing truth over what is considered decent or right.

    Why He Should Be Real: Based on real-life skeptic, wit, and ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow, Henry Drummond brings a necessary flare to the courtroom. Additionally, his reliance on logic and rational thought would be a welcome contrast from the shock trials of today. Also, he would be Spencer Tracy.

  10. Jake Brigance

    Of course John Grisham makes the list twice. In a neo-Atticus Finch-like character, Jake Brigance is also a white lawyer representing an African-American client in a tiny Southern town. He is the subject of racially targeted violence, is shot at, and is largely unpopular during his controversial trial.

    Why He Should Be Real: His charged cross-examination of the state doctor testifying against his client’s claim of temporary insanity just plain rules. Who else can get someone to scream, "You just can’t trust juries!" His closing argument is the stuff of legal legend. Also, he’d bear a striking resemblance to Matthew McConaughey.

10 Huge U.S. Brands Who Profit From What Americans Would Call Slave Labor

Would it surprise you if, at the bottom of your favorite brand’s supply chain, you find that the brand is heavily dependent upon using forced or child labor? Thankfully, more and more consumers are aware of such practices and making decisions about what to buy or boycott based on the human and environmental cost. The Internet provides plenty of documentation of worker abuse and petitions you can sign to help raise awareness of and combat such practices. The 10 U.S. brands named below, including the U.S. Department of Defense, currently profit from the abusive treatment of workers. Links to more detailed information and ways you can help are provided throughout. (Photo source: Mark Craemer)

  1. Apple

    Apple contracts factories in China to manufacture their products such as the iPhone and iPad. Foxconn Technology, China’s largest exporter and one of the nation’s biggest employers, owns several factories in the Southwestern city of Chengdu filled with workers assembling electronic products for Apple and other U.S.-based companies. The abuse of the people laboring in those factories, abuses that include excessive overtime, the employment of under-aged workers, and a disregard for workplace safety that has resulted in injuries and deaths, was recently and thoroughly reported by the New York Times. Apple has stepped up their process of inspecting and auditing the factories that are a part of their supply chain, publicly stating they will pressure companies like Foxconn to make any changes necessary for a safe workplace. But the fact is, Apple reaps huge profits from their use of cheap, unregulated labor. Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, says, "What’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practice in another, and companies take advantage of that."

  2. Nike

    The Nike brand has become, whether fairly or unfairly, synonymous with child labor. The 1996 Life magazine photo of a 12-year-old Pakistani boy sewing together a Nike soccer ball brought widespread attention to the issue, and pushed Nike to increase their efforts to raise wages and improve conditions for workers assembling their products. But unjust practices continue. Team Sweat, an international coalition of workers, consumers, and investors committed to ending Nike’s sweatshop practices, continues to report worker abuse in factories where Nike products are assembled.

  3. Motorola

    Coltan and cassiterite, so-called "conflict minerals," are used in the manufacturing of cell phones. Both of these natural resources are plentiful in the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo. Profits from these minerals finance armed groups seeking to control the region through intimidation, violence, and mass rape. The actual mining is performed in brutal, inhumane conditions by workers, including children, who must risk their lives underground for hours at a time. U.S.-based Motorola is taking steps to prevent such practices in the mining of these minerals. But as Frank Poulsen, director of the 2010 documentary Blood in the Mobile, points out, "If you ask the phone companies where their suppliers get minerals from, none of them can guarantee that they aren’t buying conflict minerals from the Congo."

  4. Hershey’s

    Much of Hershey’s cocoa is sourced from West Africa, including the impoverished region of the Ivory Coast where forced and abusive child labor is common practice. UNICEF and other human rights groups report that children continue to be trafficked from nearby countries to work on these cocoa plantations. Yet Hershey has no system in place to investigate and confirm whether or not their suppliers are not involved in the exploitation of children. The February 2012 Super Bowl featured a jumbotron screen ad created by the International Labor Rights Forum that called out Hershey for ignoring child labor abuse.

  5. Forever 21

    The Republic of Uzbekistan, the third biggest exporter of cotton in the world, relies on children numbering in the thousands to harvest the country’s cotton. Children, some as young as 9 years old, who do not meet a daily work quota are beaten, threatened with detention, or told their school grades will suffer. Thankfully, more people are becoming aware of the plight of Uzbekistan’s child laborers. reports, "Some retailers … have already taken action to ban Uzbek cotton from their products." But the U.S. retail chain Forever 21 refuses to acknowledge a need to ban Uzbekistan’s cotton from its chain of suppliers.

  6. The U.S. Department of Defense

    Thanks in part to the privatization of prisons, incarceration rates in the U.S. have soared, creating a burden on taxpayers and, since large major U.S. companies are contracting the services of prisoner-workers, lost jobs and lowered wages are also a consequence. Labor inside a prison is easily exploited and cheap, generating huge profits for the hiring corporations. The U.S. Department of Defense, with the help of a corporation run by the Bureau of Prisons called UNICOR, contracts prisoners to manufacture electronic components for Patriot missiles, launchers for anti-tank missiles, and many, many other products, including uniforms, body armor, and goggles for use on battlefields around the world. The prisoner-worker’s rights are disregarded; they are a captive labor force. "This has been ongoing for decades," says Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, who describes prison labor as part of a "confluence of similar interests" among politicians and corporations.

  7. Macy’s

    Gold mining, in addition to being one of the most polluting industries, is also often produced through forced and child labor. Miners of this particular resource across the world have attempted, sometimes at the risk of losing their lives, to unionize in order to negotiate for better wages and working conditions. The majority of gold is mined for jewelry, and Macy’s is the eighth largest retailer of jewelry in the United States. The non-profit environmental and human rights organization Earthworks has been campaigning aggressively for Macy’s to sign a pledge to commit to responsible sourcing. Eighty major retailers have signed the pledge, but Macy’s has not. “Macy’s customers deserve to know their holiday gifts don’t come with a legacy of water pollution or human rights abuses," says Payal Sampat, international campaigns director for Earthworks. "And right now, Macy’s can’t say that.”

  8. Wal-Mart Stores Inc

    Wal-Mart claims their company’s purpose is to "save people money so they can live better." OUR Walmart, a labor organization created by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, disagrees and is seeking to rally Walmart employees to ask for higher wages and better working conditions. In 2007, Human Rights Watch published a detailed report that claimed the company "stands out for the sheer magnitude and aggressiveness of its anti-union apparatus and actions." Wal-Mart argues that it has remained free of unions for the simple reason that its workers see no reason for them. However, Wal-Mart preys on their employees’ need for a job, any job, even one that doesn’t pay a living wage. "We work for a company that makes almost half a billion in profits a year," a Walmart employee is quoted as saying. "And employees can’t afford lunch." Wal-Mart actually reported $3.34 billion in profits in the third quarter of 2011. The quoted employee makes $10 an hour before taxes.

  9. The Tobacco Industry

    It’s ironic that North Carolina, a state whose politicians and lawmakers regularly espouse a hard line regarding illegal immigrants, is home to a profitable tobacco industry that depends on undocumented immigrants for labor. According to a recent report by the global relief organization Oxfam and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, these workers labor for hours in the hot sun without access to clean water or basic protective gear for preventing nicotine-related illnesses. Many live in overcrowded vermin-infested housing without working toilets or showers. And many aren’t even paid a minimum wage. RJ Reynolds, one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, continues to refuse to meet with North Carolina’s tobacco farm workers to discuss ways working conditions can be made more humane.

  10. Chiquita

    Chiquita has a long history of violating workers’ rights. Chiquita’s suppliers in Guatemala have used intimidation, blackmail, and violence to repress banana farm workers for decades. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, since 2007, 43 union members and leaders have been murdered in Guatemala. Meanwhile, in Jamaica, when thousands of workers employed by Chiquita went on strike to demand fair treatment and safer working conditions, armed men shot and killed 40 of the striking workers. In December 2010, the International Labor Rights Forum named Chiquita, along with the aforementioned RJ Reyonds, as one of the worst companies of the year.

10 Best Sites for Law Students Who Need a Good Laugh

It’s a fact: Law students are slaves to their studies. Most of their days are spent in classrooms and dimly lit libraries hunched over a book reading and outlining for hours on end. With all of that dry material to study, law students don’t have a lot of time for entertainment, let alone sleep. This kind of pattern can wreck havoc on a student’s happiness, but there is a way to get in a good laugh every day and you never have to leave the desk to make it happen. Here are the 10 best sites for law students who need a little humor in their lives.

  1. Lowering the Bar

    Con law got you down? Drop the books and check out Lowering the Bar, a legal humor site that’s guaranteed to make you laugh. Author Kevin Underhill keeps readers entertained by posting ridiculous cases, court opinions, and any other absurd legal material that catches his interest.

  2. The Billable Hour

    When you can’t make it to happy hour, kill some time on The Billable Hour instead. This site compiles hundreds of funny legal videos that range from cheesy lawyer commercials and legal cartoons to stand-up bits about jury duty.

  3. Above the Law

    Above the Law is a great place to come for any of your law school needs and career quests, but more importantly, it’s the tongue-in-cheek articles and absurd cases that make it such a popular legal website for students and lawyers.

  4. Lawhaha

    One visit to Lawhaha and you’ll be wishing Andrew McClurg was your law professor. This funny guy puts a unique spin on legal humor with his Spot the Tort and Legal Oddities section that are sure to make your eyes water. There’s even a place where you can share your law school (horror) stories.

  5. CFIF: Jester’s Courtroom

    In the Jester’s Courtroom you’ll find a collection of case stories that are "stranger than fiction," but surprisingly true. Don’t be surprised if some of these ridiculous cases end up in your textbook, because they’re just that good.

  1. Funny or Die

    Take a break from torts and contracts and turn your attention to Funny or Die. Whether you want to watch awesomely bad lawyer videos or see Will Ferrell make a fool of himself, there is something for everyone on Funny or Die.

  2. Judicial Humor

    The University of Washington’s Judicial Humor is a comical collection of random, yet hilarious cases involving everything from talking animals, wisecracking judges, and poetic parodies that will have you shaking your head and crying from laughter at the same time.

  3. is your go-to source for legal humor articles, news, and music written and performed by lawyers. That last part might sound like a joke, but you’ll just have to see for yourself.

  4. James Fuqua’s Law Jokes

    What do you get if you put 100 lawyers in a basement? A whine cellar! Get it? OK, so some of the jokes on here are pretty corny, but it might not hurt to learn a few of these for your next interview.

  5. Bitter Lawyer

    If sarcasm is your first language, then you’ll feel right at home on Bitter Lawyer. This cleverly written site is chock-full of legal humor, news, comics, and podcasts that will leave you feeling brighter and a bit more bitter than before.

The 10 Most Dangerous Gangs of the 21st Century

Gangs have been terrorizing communities and fighting for turf for as long as street crime has been around. Today’s gangs have evolved into more powerful and sophisticated groups that will do just about anything and kill just about anyone for a quick buck. According to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, there are approximately 1.4 million gang members roaming the streets and operating in prisons in the United States. Out of the tens of thousands of gangs in the world, these 10 have caused the most danger in the 21st century.

  1. The Latin Kings

    The Latin Kings is one of the largest and most dangerous Latino street gangs in the country. The Latin Kings formed in Chicago during the 1940s and have grown exponentially through the years. The Latin Kings’ chapters operate in at least 31 states, 158 cities, and have spread to all of Latin America, Spain, and other parts of Europe. Today, the Kings are as violent and ruthless as ever — many of the leaders and members have been indicted for mass murders, million-dollar drug trafficking operations, and federal weapons charges.

  2. Trinitarios

    The Trinitarios are a New York-based Hispanic gang that was established in the state prison system during the early ’90s. The Trinitarios are the fastest growing gang in the New York/New Jersey area, and their operations have extended to at least 10 other states, in addition to Spain and the Dominican Republic. The Trinitarios, also called Trinitarians, are involved in a range of street crime, including racketeering, gun trafficking, narcotics, and robberies. Unlike most large gangs, the Trinitarios are not affiliated with other gangs and its rival gangs include the Bloods, Crips, the Latin Kings, and Dominicans Don’t Play.

  3. The New Dons

    The New Dons, also known as Goodfellas and One Twenty-Nine, is a dangerous street gang that operates around West 129th Street in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. The gang is known for their wide collection of firearms, which they use to intimidate rivals. In November 2011, 19 of the New Dons members were arrested and charged with conspiracy, and some were charged with weapons possession, firearms trafficking, and attempted murder.

  4. MS-13

    MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) is arguably one of the deadliest and most powerful gangs in the country. MS-13 has one of the largest memberships nationwide with operations in at least 42 states and the District of Columbia. MS-13 members mostly consist of Salvadorans or first generation Salvadoran-Americans, as well as Hondurans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, and other Central and South American immigrants. The gang has a reputation for committing extremely violent crimes, using a wide range of weapons and intimidation tactics.

  5. Aryan Brotherhood

    The Aryan Brotherhood gang has been committing heinous crimes inside federal prisons for more than 40 years, but the gang has gained an even bigger and more dangerous presence during the 21st century. The Aryan Brotherhood began as a hate group/gang that targeted and often murdered non-white prisoners, but has since shifted its focus to crimes that are not solely motivated by race. Today, the Aryan Brotherhood has more than 15,000 members throughout the U.S., and its criminal activity ranges from murder, narcotics trafficking, and extortion to gambling, robbery, and intimidation.

  1. Wave Gang and Hood Starz

    The Wave Gang and their rivals, the Hood Starz, have been terrorizing the neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn for years. Both gangs have been involved in a number of murders, assaults, robberies, and other illegal activity. A total of 43 members from each gang were recently arrested and indicted after bragging on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube about a deadly shooting that killed three people and injured several others.

  2. Insane M.O.B. (Money Over Bitches)

    Insane M.O.B. (aka Money Over Bitches) is a modern-day gang that is allied with a group of Chicago gangs called "Folk Nation." In October 2010, 29 members of Insane M.O.B. were arrested in Orange County, Fla., for their involvement in homicides, murder-for-hire plots, drug trafficking, arson, gun sales, and other criminal activity within the area.

  3. The Red Scorpions

    The Red Scorpions is a violent drug-trafficking gang based in British Columbia, Canada. The gang was allegedly formed by Quang Vinh Le in 2000, while he was incarcerated at a Vancouver detention center. The Red Scorpions come from different multicultural backgrounds and are identified by the "RS" tattoos on their neck, shoulders, and wrists. Since their formation, the Scorpions have been involved in a large cocaine trafficking operation and many homicides, including the slaughtering of six people in 2008.

  4. 18th Street gang

    The 18th Street gang is a Los Angeles-based street gang that has become one of the largest and most ruthless organizations in the country and possibly in the world. The Latino gang is considered to be the largest street gang in LA, and its members can be found in 37 states, as well as Mexico and Central America. The violent gang has been around for decades, but its growing membership and generations of gang leaders have kept it alive and strong. The 18th Street gang is involved in all areas of street crimes and has been linked to more than 250 homicides in Los Angeles over the last 10 years.

  5. Mexican Mafia

    The Mexican Mafia is one of the oldest and most dominant prison gangs in the country. The violent gang formed in California’s prisons in the late ’50s and has since expanded to federal prison systems in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. The Mexican Mafia is involved in a number of criminal activities inside and outside of prison, such as murder, extortion, drug trafficking, and has had a longstanding rivalry with the Black Guerilla Family. The group reigns over almost every Chicano gang in Southern California and they are obligated to carry out all orders from the Mexican Mafia or risk the chance of being murdered.